Some time this summer, the parking lot at Elmwood Avenue and Bryant Street will start looking like a giant hole in the ground, as environmental cleanup and construction work starts on a major mixed-use building. It is the first sign of re-purposing Buffalo's old Women and Children's Hospital site.
To get Monday's city Planning Board approval and last week's approval from the city Zoning Board of Appeals, the partnership of Sinatra and Company and Ellicott Development knocked one floor off their plan for the building, reducing the project from six floors to five. That also cut the number of apartments to be built to 23.
The first floor will be for retail, while the second floor will be commercial space. Opponent Daniel Sack said the board approved an incomplete plan, since there were no details for the first-floor retail space.
"I can believe that they don't know who the tenants will be and how large the spaces they will need there, but if you are not intending to have spaces that are too large, then just draw them in," Sack said. "They could have done it today with a pen and put in three lines, but they didn't to that."
Sack said the project may have to come back for zoning variances once the retail tenants are under contract because of restrictions in the Green Code on store size.
The building will rely on an existing parking lot along Bryant. However, Ellicott Development Director Tom Fox said the overall project will also require buying a city parking ramp.
"Acquisition of the BCAR Gallagher Ramp," Fox said. "Those talks continue and with that the ramp will have a public place on the first floor for around 150 spaces. The remainder of the 600 spaces in the ramp will be used for whatever overflow is needed from this building and everything else needed for the future plans with the former hospital campus."
Sinatra Development Director Amy Nagy said the developers are designing the overall use of the various former hospital buildings, while also doing the required environmental review of the complex. The developers are also looking for brownfield and historic tax credit financing.
There has already been a lot of environmental cleanup, especially for asbestos. Nagy said the environmental review and the planning process will take around 14 months before applications for construction can start. The environmental review will be back before the Planning Board next month for approval to start.