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Zoning Board hears vocal opposition to Amherst Street development project

Buffalo Zonng Board of Appeals
The existing site

Developer Hormoz Monsouri didn't receive a very good reaction Wednesday, as he unsuccessfully asked the Buffalo Zoning Board of Appeals for a series of variances to build a five-story, mixed-use, 184-apartment units complex on East Amherst Street.

It's a big project, with Monsouri listing $45 million to replace a long-closed and decaying bowling alley surrounded by a chain-link fence, just off Main Street.

That section of East Amherst is starting to come back after some bad years. Just down the street is the LP Ciminelli massive replacement of the old Central Park Plaza into the Highland Park residential community. Working with Elim Community Development, Ciminelli will be placing 747 residential units by the finish.

Those are fairly low-rise. Monsouri's project is taller.

"It's a five-story building," Monsouri said. "The first floor will have a 34,000-36,000 square feet dedicated to the commerce. At least one major grocery shop has been committed to that particular site. In addition to that one, we have doctors who have shown interest to open up an office there."

Monsouri asked the Zoning Board for a series of variances, from the height to the distance from the sidewalk.

Credit Buffalo Zoning Board of Appeals
The neighborhood around the project

Opponents were vocal that the subjects of the variances were why they were so vocal, that issues like the height and the distance to the sidewalk just shouldn't be allowed.

"Several objections," said Charles Campbell. "One is the massive mass of the building. It's just absolutely huge, way out of character to anything probably within a mile of the proposed building. Also, the parking that will be around the building. He should build to the street."

"It's the wrong type of project for the area," said Vinny Rondinelli. "It's a suburban-style development in an urban area. There's rail there, so you don't really have to completely plan it for cars. It's a place planned for cars in a city trying to improve pedestrian accessibility."

Monsouri told the board he needed all the variances to make the project work and he could walk away from it.

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.