Despite complaints from some that two proposed buildings on Jefferson Avenue violated the spirit and the letter of Buffalo's new Green Code, the Zoning Board of Appeals Wednesday approved zoning variances to allow the $20 million mixed-use project.
The two buildings would be on the west side of Jefferson, just north of the Johnnie B. Wiley complex. Together, the buildings total 84 apartments with an array of subsidies.
The housing would be run by People Inc., one of the developers, and the first-floor 23,000 square feet of commercial space would be managed by Sinatra and Company, another developer. The buildings are wider than allowed under the Green Code and closer to the lot lines.
Zoning Board Chairman Rev. James Lewis said the community needs this project.
"I'm pretty sure that all the property values will be increased and it will be a benefit to everybody in that complete neighborhood," Lewis said. "I grew up in that neighborhood and I remember Loblaws and A&P and the three banks that used to be on Jefferson. For the life of me, I went to Boston and came back and it was like a ghost town."
Several speakers told the Zoning Board the decision is a bad precedent, as developers along Elmwood Avenue seek much larger variances and it is a first big test of the new Green Code rules.
"The project is a good idea," said opponent Danile Sack. "Having People Inc. in a mixed-use building on Jefferson Avenue will be wonderful for the neighborhood. That said, the implementation of the project is opposed to the Green Code. We've just completed 5 years, 6 years, hundreds of citizens, millions of dollars and among their first decisions on a major project, they say, 'We'll approve a very large variance.'"
Jocelyn Bos is Vice President for Housing Development for People Inc. Bos said financing for the project now gets serious.
"We can now start applying for funding for the project," she said. "Our goal is to start late summer 2017."
Bos said rental applications are about a year away from completion in late summer of next year.
"In keeping with an approved affirmative marketing plan, we typically start taking applications four months prior to occupancy," Bos said.