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Community feedback shapes planned luxury downtown project into affordable housing

Ciminelli Real Estate

What was supposed to be a major luxury housing addition to downtown Buffalo, with a large Tops market and other amenities including underground parking, will now be 201 units of affordable housing and a fresh food market.

It has taken almost two years from the original announcement to the new proposal.

"The new project offers 201 affordable housing units. Those are 1-bedroom, starting at a price point of around $660 and two-bedroom units starting at a price point of around $790," said project spokesman Matt Davison said. "In addition, the notion of this fresh food market grocer is still very much in play and a big component of the evolved thinking."

Regarding Tops' recent bankruptcy declaration, Davison said the development team “was certainly aware" of the situation. He says community feedback also led to some changes and in the end, the project team saw the need for more affordable housing.

"It's a reflection of what we would consider a market need and also a need for downtown Buffalo, certainly," he said. "I think we're looking at it in this context of the urban core and what can help facilitate the vibrancy of downtown and this project and these 201 units we think will contribute to that."

Most details of the new plan are not yet set, including cost. Still, Ciminelli Real Estate expects to purchase the property in time for site clean-up starting in the spring, with construction starting in the fall and completion in 2021.

The 201 Ellicott St. site is now a major downtown parking lot. Davison said some surface parking will remain on site.

"To help support the food market and to make sure that patrons of it are able to get in and get out," Davison said. "What the vision is currently is focused on some flex space. While this would be space that could be used for parking, it could also be used for seating, could host a small event. So not just a traditional parking lot, but an area you could have multiple uses for."

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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