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'Game changer' development moving forward in Central Park

One of the largest housing developments in Buffalo in decades took another step forward Monday, before the city Planning Board.

The development is called Highland Park Village. What's familiar about it is the site: once the Central Park Plaza and for years a shambles of land and vast empty parking lot in North Buffalo, somewhat lost behind neighborhoods.

When this complex is completely finished, it will have more than 700 housing units and retail space, along with parks and public transit availability.

The Planning Board could not approve this first phase because it needs some variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals. Ciminelli Real Estate Executive Vice President and Principal Dennis Penman said this will be a game changer.

"The overall project is 27 acres and it anticipates a little over 550 units when it's all built out," said Penman. "The first phase before we're asking for the planning approval today is a phase 1A and a phase 1B, Phase 1A and phase 1B combined, which will be our first construction is 92 units."

What was in front of the Planning Board Monday was four 13-unit apartment buildings and 32 single-family townhouses for sale for a little over $200,000. All would be available for move-in about a year from now.

"The folks that we're going to be working or, to be honest with you, be residents at the medical school where many times they're couples, that are married couples where the husband or wife is working and the other spouse is attending the medical school," said Penman. "So we think it's going to be a great family neighborhood and supportive of opportunities for employment on the medical campus and also at UB."

Penman said this also will be a walkable community.

"We've been real sensitive to understanding that it is transit-oriented development, so we're very sensitive to the fact that we met with NFTA to get bus routes to accommodate the site where the buses will actually come into the site," said Penman. "We've accommodated the bus shelters on the site in the public park area. We're very sensitive to have walk pathways where people can walk to public transportation at the Amherst Street Station."

This first phase is around $13 million and the first two phases are around $24 million. Environmental cleanup is complete.

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.