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Uniland gets go-ahead to build new downtown post office

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WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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When is a post office not a post office? When it is space built by a private company to be leased to the U.S. Postal Service. That was the issue before Buffalo's Zoning Board of Appeals Wednesday.Uniland is seeking to have an administrative ruling reversed so it can go ahead with building a new and smaller postal facility near Tupper Street along Washington Street. It will replace a much larger building just down the block, which is being removed.

A private developer is not allowed to build this kind of public building, so Uniland needs an override of Permit and Inspection.

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Credit Google Maps
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"The post office is considered a government office, but Uniland is not either a not-for-profit or a government agency," City Planner Nadine Marrero told the Zoning Board. "They are not allowed to use this building type to construct a post office. If you only had a not-for-profit arm, they could do this."

Architect Gwen Howard told the board it is semantics.

"Had the post office come and built this post office themselves, they would not be subject to the Green Code, the New York State Building Code or any other regulations," said Howard. "So what we have is a building that would not, if the post office built it, have to meet any regulations. Instead, you have a developer building four of them with a long-term lease that meets 100 percent of the regulations except for the ownership of the property."

The board decided to let the project go forward, overruling the City Hall decision that the structure is not a public building. There is a restriction that if it ever ceases being a post office, the building will not be legal.

Activist Deborah Lynn Williams said the entire project should have been delayed.

"Civic buildings versus commercial buildings. We're in there from the beginning and very specifically. We don't want private developers to hold land for public uses that are just so different," Williams said. "The American goverment operations, there's no reason why they couldn't seek the variances, just in the regular way of privately that they're proposing, that they're requesting."