Mixed reactions to development plans for former children’s hospital site

Feb 1, 2018

The winter hiatus is apparently over. The Elmwood Village development wars are reheating, this time over what to do with the former Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo.

A packed house at Lafayette Presbyterian Church heard plans for what will be called Elmwood Crossing. Immediately challenges began, issues from the struggle over possible variances from the city's Green Code development rules to not enough affordable housing units set aside.

The team of Sinatra & Company and Ellicott Development is proposing more than 300 new housing units - many in new buildings - a large grocery store, a hotel and a lot of commercial space. New construction would start this summer on an apartment building at Elmwood Avenue and Bryant Street and for-sale townhouses on Utica Street.

Neighbor Peggy Moriarty praised one new building.

"This building on the corner of Bryant, compared to the parking lot that we have been looking at since the gas station left, 40 years ago, 30 years ago, it is an elegant, beautiful building," Moriarty said. "It has awnings. It looks like something in Toronto."

Master Plan for former Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo site.
Credit Sinatra & Company

Opponents said the plan has too many new housing units. Zoning variances needed are yet another attack on the Green Code and the new building at Bryant and Elmwood is not only too tall, but violates Green Code rules. Sinatra & Company founder and President Nick Sinatra Nick Sinatra told an angry speaker he builds quality housing and not just in the Elmwood Village.

"On Jefferson Avenue, we're doing a $25 million mixed-use, mixed-income development that's going to include 84 apartments that are affordable and they are going to look great," Sinatra said. "The building looks phenomenal and it's no different than the product that we are doing here in terms of quality and design. We're doing it over there, as well."

Sinatra said the plan for the former hospital calls for 20 percent affordable housing, often needed in a city where there is a shortage of affordable units, and substantial minority and women business and labor participation. The developers said the new construction will start the city process soon, with work to start this summer.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Luz Velez said minorities did not have a voice in the plans.

"Inclusionary zoning, 20 percent is not enough for our community, okay? We need more than 20 percent" Velez said. "As far as the young lady who spoke up there too, how many jobs are started with a certain quota and how many times are people let go before the quota is completed and we never get the numbers, okay? There are a lot of things that go on and there are a lot of great things that can come from this."

Ellicott Development CEO William Paladino said there are too many questions about the high-rise sections of the former hospital to have definitive plans ready, although the intention is a hotel and condos. The developers said there will be a lot of green space in a neighborhood of not much.