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Downsized complex approved for Elmwood and Bryant

Sinatra Co. and Ellicott Development
New rendering of proposed complex for Elmwood Avenue and Bryant Street in Buffalo.

Developers shaved one floor off their plan for a mixed-use building at Elmwood Avenue and Bryant Street in Buffalo and received key variances from the city Zoning Board of Appeals for the project Wednesday. A final go-ahead is probable at Monday's city Planning Board meeting.
Activist Daniel Sack said Buffalo's Green Code is in shambles, after the Zoning Board gave variances to a building that is higher, wider and covers more property than the code allows.

"I have no idea why anybody in City Hall trusts either company," Sack said. "Sinatra chooses not to pay his taxes until he has something coming up for approvals. Ellicott? Their building at 905, when they were in this room in Room 901, they promised there would be free valet parking because the building didn't have adequate parking. Valet parking occurs some Friday and Saturday nights. It's not free."

Sinatra and Ellicott Development plan to have the brownfield site cleaned up and start actual building construction by late summer. Costs are not quite clear, but Sinatra Development Director Amy Nagy said it will be less than the $16 million listed for the original six-story building.

She said the developers worked hard to get the building approved and agreed to the compromise shrinking.

"All along, we've had great community dialogue. We've had the benefit of a project advisory committee. We hear from community members. We live in the community," Nagy said. "So we felt that there was a sense that, for the most part, there was support for the variances we were looking for. We thought it might make it a little bit more palatable if we showed some compromise. This is just the start of a very large project."

They really do live in the neighborhood, since Nick Sinatra just bought a house on Oakland Place, which ends at the old Women & Children's Hospital building. Neighbor Peggy Moriarty agreed the developers worked hard for agreement.

"No problems with them. We've made more progress with this team than we did in a year-and-a-half with previous developers," Moriarty said. "They have met with us and given us notice, and I really feel that we are not giving them everything that's coming down the line. There have been concerns about building materials, design, green space, parking, etc., and we will hold them to that."

A major give in this project was a Memorandum of Understanding for the entire hospital property between the developers and the city. It calls for 20 percent of the apartments in the project to be affordable housing, although only a few will be in the Elmwood Crossing structure at Elmwood and Bryant. Early plans call for a total of 300 apartments on the old hospital site.

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.