It has been almost three years since Ciminelli Real Estate was named the designated developer for the parking lot at 201 Ellicott St. in downtown Buffalo. Tuesday afternoon, the Common Council is likely to approve selling the city-owned site to Ciminelli, clearing the way for development.
When the project was originally announced, the plan was a high-end apartment structure with a supermarket and underground parking. The $50 million project Ciminelli now plans for the site is 201 affordable housing units and a smaller fresh food market and wholesale warehouse.
If you don't know the site, it is located between the Buffalo Central Library and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority headquarters, holding around 400 parking spaces. What is before the Council is selling the land under the parking lot for nearly $2.5 million.
Council President Darius Pridgen said he is backing the new plan because of the affordable housing and especially because of the fresh food.
"People who need the affordable housing in downtown Buffalo seem to be all for it. The market? I'm really, really excited about the fresh food at the market because often when we talk about affordable housing or a project like this, the only place that people in that area have to get fresh food is nowhere," he said.
Local NAACP President Rev. Mark Blue said the plan would bring back a desperately needed vibrancy to downtown.
"In my travels throughout this country, downtown area was the most thriving place in all of the areas that I have been to visit," he said, "and right now, this is the perfect opportunity to bring and restore the vibrancy of our city and our downtown area."
Ciminelli said the complex will be a mix of one- and two-bedroom units, with rents from $680-$1,280 a month. There will be a mobility hub inside to help people get around, since there won't be any residential parking on the site. There is Uber, Lyft and Metro Bus service and the Metro Rail is two blocks away.
Work will start in the fall and construction is slated to take two years.
"Looking toward Q3 or Q4, so in the fall timeframe to really get project work going," said project spokesman Matt Davison. "We're looking at about a two-year buildout. So by 2020, we hope to have this project out of the ground and open."