Opposition continues against Queen City Landing, despite design changes

Jan 15, 2020

The future of a high-rise residential tower on the Outer Harbor is being decided in one of Buffalo's earliest high rise buildings: City Hall.

Developer Jerry Buchheit was in the far back of Common Council chambers Tuesday, as the Legislation Committee held a public hearing on his latest plan for Queen City Landing. That is a 20-story residential tower planned for the former Freezer Queen site near Ohio Street and Fuhrmann Boulevard.

Building a high-rise on the water's edge brought objections from Philip Campanile. He is a local native working on his doctorate at Berkeley, with a thesis on the harbor and the shifting weather patterns.

"Seiches are becoming more common as part of our new climate reality here in Buffalo," Campanile said. Dr. Stephen Vermette, the climatologist at Buff State, who has tracked the history of climate-related weather patterns in Western New York has demonstrated that we are experiencing a statistically significant increase in the number of severe wind events in Buffalo since 1965. These are the events with their coinciding changes in barometric pressure that cause seiches. This is our new climate reality."

The development site may have flooded during the Halloween storm and a more recent storm.

Waterkeeper lawyer Maugaux Valenti said the Common Council is not being given accurate information.

"In front of this Council today is a question of fact," Valenti said. "This project is presented to you as a loft and it is up to the Council to determine whether it is it is a loft or a tower. The N1s zone does not allow towers, so the applicant has artfully re-branded this project as a loft. It has only lost three stories since its first time."

A previous rendering of Queen City Landing.
Credit Trautman Associates

Buchheit has made some major changes in the plan, including cutting it from 23 stories to 20 stories. A key element in the latest design is moving the building back somewhat from the edge of the water to allow a bike path at the edge of the water for public access.

The Common Council approved an earlier plan, but that tangled in the courts. Monday night, the Planning Board tabled another part of the planning process because members wanted to study around 2" of paperwork delivered last Friday.

Buchheit lawyer Adam Walters told the Planning Board his side has the winning hand.

"We can debate whether that approval is expired or not. I know what position my opponent will take on that. He's expressed in writing several times," Walters said. "But at the end of the day, from the SEQR perspective, certainly, you're looking at the impacts what you previously did and what the court approved versus the project changes that are here today and, from our perspective, the project changes all, all reduce impact."

Walters' opponent is lawyer Arthur Giacalone, who will not say if he is going to go back to court on the latest version of the Queen City Landing project.

The developer would like to start work on the project in the spring, but that is up in the air, with actions needed in both the Planning Board and the Common Council. The Legislation Committee tabled the project, but held the public hearing open for more information.