Opponents of Elmwood plan pack Preservation Board hearing

Jan 13, 2017

Even with little notice of a plan for massive building demolitions in the Elmwood Village, the Buffalo Preservation Board's relatively small conference room overflowed into the hallways Thursday with opponents of the plan. In the end, the board needed to delay a final decision for two weeks for legal reasons.

A small meeting room could not hold all those attending Thursday's Preservation Board session.
Credit Mike Desmond/WBFO News

Officials with Ciminelli Real Estate say their revised plans are in line with the city's new Green Code, Preservation Buffalo Niagara Executive Director Jessie Fisher says more is needed.
"As a sign of respect for all of these people who came out, who left their jobs, who came downtown today to talk about how important their community is to them, I think as a sign of respect, the applicant would be wise to withdraw their request for permits and start the process newly under the Green Code," said Fisher, who drew applause for her comments.

The plan for the Elmwood, Bidwell and Potomac area requires extensive demolition of whole buildings and the insides of some buildings, leaving only facades. Ciminelli Executive Vice President and Principal Dennis Penman argued that his firm has responded appropriately to community input.

"We were at five stories and one of the buildings now is down to four," Penman pointed out.

"When we initially purchased this property, we anticipated under the existing code that we would be doing about 140 apartments and 150 parking spaces and, of course, we are way down from that density-wise because the Green Code as it has been adopted is much less."

The Green Code contains a three-story limit for new buildings in the Elmwood Village.

The meeting featured several contentious exchanges, including audience response to Ciminelli attorney John Schmidt, who commented on the possibility of stopping the development by securing landmark status for some of the buildings facing demolition.

"I'm a litigator. If it does go to court, the landmark process, that's where I'll get involved," said Schmidt who drew angry reactions as he continued. "I don't know if anyone in this room is going to appreciate that, other than the lawyer that retained by you to face me in litigation."

The next session will be held in Common Council chambers.