Parking, or lack thereof, dominates public hearing on planned downtown development

Apr 18, 2019

The planned Ciminelli Real Estate development at 201 Ellicott in downtown Buffalo may call for 201 apartments of affordable housing, but most of the talk before the city Zoning Board of Appeals Wednesday revolved around parking.

The project requires a long list of zoning variances. The zoning board held a public hearing on them Wednesday, but can't vote on them for a month.

On Monday, the project is before the city Planning Board in the complicated process of getting a development legally ready to be built. This is even more complicated because it is being treated as two buildings: the actual housing structure and the corner lot building where the planned Braymiller Market would go if all of this is approved.

"This is what you see in cities much larger and much smaller than Buffalo. It's where the future is going," Davison said. "The future is electric cars and ride sharing and public commuting and public transportation and Buffalo has an opportunity here for a great project that's going to bring a fresh food market, downtown, that we sorely need. It's going to bring affordable housing that we sorely need and the project also has to be economically sustainable," said project spokesman Matt Davison.

Ciminelli is building this project as a transit-oriented development using Uber, Metro Rail, Metro Bus and bicycles. What it does not have is parking. The city Green Code does not have mandatory parking requirements, as did old zoning rules. The hearing was dominated by strong words over the project replacing nearly 400 parking spaces in a surface lot.

Developer Carl Paladino blasted the plan as just a way for developer Paul Ciminelli to improve demand for his network of downtown parking lots.

"The developer of this site, Paul Ciminelli, is the largest parking operator in downtown Buffalo. AllPro is owned by Paul Ciminelli. And what is Paul Ciminelli doing when he's taking city inventory off the market? It's allowing him to raise his rates in his facilities," Paladino said. "This thing stinks to high heaven."

City officials said there is plenty of parking, while architect and developer Steve Carmina said he is moving most of his staff from near Genesee and Main streets into the Harborcenter because it has hundreds of cheap parking spaces available.

"I am about to move my staff, who are now in three different locations: here in Mohawk, in the Augspurger and in open lots, as well, 34 employees downtown," Carmina said. "I'm about to move a chunk of those down to the Harborcenter because out of the 700 spaces there, 500 are available during the day, at $20 a month, and there are spaces available in Cobblestone as well."