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Ryan advances new strategy to develop Elmwood Village

WBFO's Mike Desmond

The decades of fighting over development in the Elmwood Village haveoften  involved a group objecting to the plan of a developer for a particular piece of property. A new strategy, led by New York State Assemblymember Sean Ryan, proposes an alternative to Chason Affinity's plan for Elmwood and Forest avenues.

As the Buffalo Democrat said during a news conference Wednesday, this is only the latest massive plan for Elmwood and Forest over the last 30 years. Each has suggested replacing aging structures on the corner, demolishing different numbers of existing buildings and building a mix of commercial and residential space.

The plan from architect Benjamin Spitler calls for re-working the buildings there to look like others in the Elmwood Village and actually adding 11 apartments to the 24 in the current buildings.

"What we have in the Elmwood Village is really a treasure and, with the threat of so much demolition on Elmwood Avenue itself, right in the heart of the Elmwood Village, there has to be a better way," Spitler said. "We have to be able to look at these old, historic, beautiful buildings and re-adapt them, re-imagine them for our time and moving into the future."

Preservation Buffalo Niagara Executive Director Jessie Fisher agreed that the community needs investment, but on different terms.

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond
Buffalo Assemblymember Sean Ryan announces his development plan for a popular Elmwood Village corner.

"Do we want new investment in our communities? Of course we do," he said. "We want that investment to respect the existing community, to respect how successful it has been on its own all of these years and to come in and add to the community. Bring more to the community. Don't take away from the community. We think this kind of plan does that sort of work."

The fight over development on this corner is mixed in with a related fight over development around Elmwood and Bidwell. This plan would replace low-rise buildings with much larger ones - something that would require variances from Buffalo's new Green Code. In addition, there is an anticipated fight over development near Delavan and Elmwood.

WBFO reached out to Chason Affinity, but did not receive a response.

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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