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New Development vs Traditional Character in Elmwood Village

A state assemblymember is pushing back against a string of major development plans in the Elmwood Village, arguing it is damaging a livable and walkable community.

State lawmaker Sean Ryan lives in the Elmwood Village. He told a packed house at the Buffalo History Museum the village's character is being damaged, as giant buildings replace mixed-use buildings with retail on the first floor and housing upstairs. One project of concern is proposed for Elmwood and Forest.

"For a Walgreens at that location, that was beat back," Ryan said. "Like clockwork, ten years later, was the proposal for a seven-story hotel. In 2016, ten years later, we have the largest proposal ever for that corner, which is really to demolish the entire strip of wood frame buildings and replace it with a five-story apartment building."

Representatives from Chason Affinity, which is planning the property, were in the audience, but had no comment afterwards.

Half & Half owner Jenifer Bronstein says she favors a major apartment complex at Elmwood and Forest, which Ryan clearly opposes.

"We have finally had Buffalo, New York turn around and here, we have so many people that maybe don't want it turned around," Bronstein said. "But I myself I want my children to come back to Buffalo. I want my kids to get jobs. I want there to be income for them to want to stay here. And we have these opportunities and here is one opportunity, in my opinion, that is absolutely beautiful, stellar, Green Code and everything else."

Besides the Elmwood and Forest complex on the proposal list, Ryan said there is an even larger complex in the works around Elmwood and Bidwell, with property sold to developers, but no details being released yet.

Preservationist Tom Yots agreed with Ryan that the entire neighborhood character is being threatened by demolitions replaced with far larger buildings.

"I can't understand why they would think that a building that is out of character with the rest of the neighborhood is the right place to go," said Yots. "Elmwood Village has already increased its density. My wife and I wouldn't be living in the Elmwood Village if the density didn't increase, because we are living in a three-family home that was built as a single-family home. That's what happened in Elmwood Village. I have no problem with increased density. What I have a problem with is buildings that are out of character with the rest of the Elmwood Village."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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