The fate of the planned $120 million Elmwood Crossing reworking of the former Women and Children's Hospital campus went before the Buffalo Common Council's Legislation Committee Wednesday. After several speakers made their voices heard, the item was tabled so council members can study the plan.
The project is sponsored by the joint venture of Sinatra and Company and Ellicott Development. The speakers were divided between those who don't want this plan for adaptive reuse of the old hospital site to those who have gone through endless meetings on different plans.
The plan calls for an array of changes, from some new-build townhouses for sale, to conversion of one old hospital building into affordable housing, a grocery store and condos. A separate, but related, building is already under construction at Elmwood Avenue and Bryant Street.
The major plan requires 11 variances from the city's Green Code. Ellicott Development Development Director Tom Fox told the meeting of one.
"This request is to allow us to achieve our proposed plan to build an urban-style grocery store with mixed-use apartments above, at 204 West Utica," Fox said. "It would be in contrast with the existing structure and abundant surface parking currently on site. We propose a maximum of four stories at this location and across the site, with setback requirements on the fourth level of the building."
That grocery building and the townhouses would start next year.
Speakers at the meeting were divided, with many supporting the project to put life back into empty and unheated structures in a residential neighborhood, while others were opposed to the project as proposed, saying it needs everything from more green space to preservation of two homes on West Utica, rather than knocking them down to make way for the townhomes.
Speaker Linda Gellman said the plan is all too much.
"I'm here today out of concern for our neighborhood and the long mistake of adding 27 condos, 20 townhouses, 221 apartments," Gellman said. "That will be adding hundreds of people to our infrastructure, antiquated sewer system and resources. There are solutions to the green infrastructure of the Buffalo sewer overflow challenges and they are online. You can read about them."
Sewer service in the Elmwood and Bryant area near West Utica has been an issue in several large development projects in the Elmwood Village. Developers say the hospital had hundreds more patients and staffers than the reused complex will have.
Council Majority Leader David Rivera attacked speakers who said nothing has been public in the process.
"At some point, a decision will be made and it's very difficult," Rivera said. "I've learned that when you have development projects, this phase is always contentious and anxiety and stress of the unknown. I will not leave it to the goodwill of the developers, I should tell you that. I will look out to make sure that this project is a good project and a better project and that the community is engaged."