An alternative future for Elmwood Village proposed by Ryan

Ryan’s plans are focused on “adaptive re-use” of current structures


Dan Almasi, Executive Editor

Differing visions for the future of Elmwood Village are clashing.

Today, Assemblyman Sean Ryan offered rebuttal in the form of an alternative to Chason Affinity Co.’s plans to build a five-story condominium complex at the corner of Elmwood and Forest Avenue.

Ryan’s proposal focuses on the adaptive re-modeling of existing structures instead of knocking them down in order to clear the way for “megastructures,” which Ryan says would “rip apart the fabric of the Elmwood Village.”

Today, Ryan proposed to remodel the 14 buildings that Chason Affinity Co. plans to demolish into six buildings containing a total of 11 apartments, a bed and breakfast, an art gallery, a bakery, a café and five or six commercial storefronts.

“This plan would fit perfectly with the fabric and character of what already exists,” Ryan said. “You will have the community coming out and supporting this type of project.”

Ryan stands on a platform supported by more than the idea that Elmwood Village should remain “quaint,” or “pretty”; he supported his proposal with data from Preservation Green Lab, an organization founded in 2009 as part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“Through Preservation Green Lab’s research, cities like Buffalo can gain a better understanding of the barriers and opportunities to local building reuse and to the preservation of existing resources,” Preservation Green Lab Director of Research Michael Power said in a recent interview with Buffalo Rising. “Using massive amounts of data drawn to the human scale, the Green Lab’s research highlights and recommends future neighborhood reinvestment opportunities, innovative local policies, and pilot projects to provide new alternatives for cities as they envision a strong and resilient future.”

Referencing Green Lab’s research, Ryan asserted that re-purposing the existing structures would do more economic good than building new complexes would.

Ryan’s announcement comes a day after a separate proposed Elmwood Village commercial development was halted. On Tuesday, Ciminelli Real Estate and Development Corp. announced it would scrap plans to build “Arbor” — the more controversial half of its original “Arbor + Reverie” project planned for the corner of Elmwood Ave. and Bidwell Parkway. Ryan has voiced opposition to this project as well.

In response to the Nov., 2016 proposition to build “Arbor + Reverie”, Ryan and over 650 others signed a petition started on Jan. 16 titled “Elmwood Village Residents for Green Code Compliance”. The petition states the proposed project “is not in compliance with the Elmwood Village section of the Green Code, which has a height limit of three stories, prohibits demolition without an approved plan, and prevents the combination of more than two properties for the purpose of building a new structure.”

In a Nov., 2016 interview with the Buffalo News, Ciminelli Executive Vice President Dennis Penma stated, “It’s a change for the neighborhood, but it’s a change that’s well thought-out and it’s based on where we see the puck going and how we think that neighborhood will change. We think we’ve adapted in a very thoughtful way.”

On Jan. 27, President and CEO Paul Ciminelli responded to opposition and announced they withdrew demolition permits for all existing structures in a statement:

“Let me formally clear up any confusion and reiterate that there will be no demolition at the site prior to the Green Code going into effect, and that the project will go through the entire approval process established by the Green Code. The City of Buffalo has worked long and hard on developing an updated Green Code and our team has been closely following the changes to ensure our project is aligned with the new Code.”

Ryan called this a “major win” for all those in opposition to the commercial development.

“Ciminelli wanted to sneak demolitions in before the Buffalo Green Code went into effect, and they were caught,” Ryan said in a Jan. 27 statement. “Now that they have admitted defeat and withdrawn requests for demolition permits, I hope Ciminelli will work with the community to create a development plan that focuses on adaptive reuse, fits the Green Code, and that the community can agree on.”

As two differently envisioned prospects of a future Elmwood Village clash, none of the three proposals is likely to move forward at a reasonable pace. But today, Ryan did more than provide reasons as to why “Arbor + Reverie” and Chason Affinity Co.’s condominium complex should not be built – he provided a seemingly reasonable, arguably better alternative. Now, we wait for Ciminelli and Chason Affinity Co. to tell us why it’s not.

See a photo gallery of digital renditions of Ryan’s proposal here:

EDIT: A previously published version of this story asserted that Ryan’s proposal is in direct opposition to Ciminelli Real Estate and Development Co.’s plans to build a multi-use complex on the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Bidwell Parkway — that is incorrect. While Ryan has voiced opposition to Ciminelli’s plans as well, Ryan’s proposal is an alternative to Chason Affinity Co.’s proposal to build a five-story condominium complex near the corner of Elmwood and Forest Ave.

email: [email protected]

Twitter: Almasi_