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Will opposition keep proposed Reverie development a pipedream?

Ciminelli Real Estate

It wasn't a comfortable room for developers of a planned project for the corner of Elmwood and Potomac Thursday night. Ciminelli Real Estate presented the latest version of its Reverie project to Elmwood Village residents steadfast in their opposition to the development.

There have been a series of community meetings about Ciminelli's planned development in that area. At the heart of the opposition is that the plan calls for variances from the rules of Buffalo's new Green Code. It is the first major project subject to the new rules and the first seeking variances in height and width rules.

Ciminelli lawyer Adam Walters said the width rule might not apply to the Reverie.

"We're actually in discussions with the city and the Law Department on that," he said. "We do not think that requirement applies because this is a prior non-conforming lot. The lot was combined into a single lot last year, shortly after the property was acquired last year, before the Green Code was adopted. So, from our perspective, that requirement doesn't apply. If it did, we would have a non-buildable lot."

Paul Ciminelli said his company has been listening to the opposition, citing a decision to keep a building on Potomac instead of demolishing it and making big changes in the main building.

"We've reduced the height of the building from 67' to 50'3". We're providing parking for over 120 cars. We're now using more traditional building materials, including brick and stone. We're incorporating retail space for the kind of shop that residents and visitors of this neighborhood would be proud of," he said.

Architect Matt Meier also noted the significant changes in the proposed design.

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond
It was a full house at the Unitarian Universalist Church meeting.

"We had a fifth floor that was stepped back with sloping roof, we've taken that fifth floor off and carried the sloped roof design down to the fourth floor and we've also taken to account sort of unique articulation along the facade of the building to bring us a bit of a human, pedestrian scale," he said.

The arguments did not go over well with most speakers. Opponent after opponent stood up to make their voice heard.

"The slide that was shown by Ciminelli shows how many and how significant those variances are," said Andrea Schillaci. "The second point is the negative impact on the neighborhood. Essentially, what this building is if you look at the designs that were shown tonight, we have turned the surrounding neighborhood, residential neighborhood into accessories to this major, major building."

Jeremy Toth said the Elmwood Village is a good neighborhood, where he has lived for decades and raised his family. Toth said the plan would damage a good neighborhood.

"You want to tear down two blocks. I know you want to spin that it's just one, Reverie, but we know there's another block, going two blocks, Adam," he said to applause. "You want to tear down two blocks. To Dr. Alessi's point, there is a way that we can work together, but not here. If you want to tear down Price-Rite, go nuts."

Price-Rite is at the other end of the community, in the Stuyvesant Plaza.

Lawyer Robert Perk's office is right across the street from the proposed building. Perk backs the plan.

"In spite of what people talk and throw barbs at them, they have been more than kind and upfront with me," he said. "My first concern was parking. They alleviated those concerns and went above and beyond on the parking. I would suggest that people that have things to say, particularly nasty things, call them and talk to them. I think the project is a good thing. The Bullfeathers property has stayed vacant for what, two to three years now? There are some houses adjacent to the place that are nothing more than frat houses that are falling apart."

The meeting held at the Unitarian Universalist Church was sponsored by Common Councilmembers Joel Feroleto and David Rivera, who are grappling with a Green Code that still is not in effect citywide.

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.