Planning Board approves West Utica condos, wants changes to Michigan Avenue apartments

Jan 15, 2019

Another large residential building moved closer to the start of construction, with an approval by the Buffalo Planning Board Monday.

A 54-unit luxury condominium complex will replace a former massive dry cleaning plant at West Utica and Atlantic Avenue. Developers Sinatra and Essex Homes say they can't disclose the cost of the four-story project because the complex is tied up in the state attorney general's office, which must approve condo offering statements. The cost is likely millions.

Eric Brady told the Planning Board it's a bad building in the wrong place.

"In general, we think that this is a very large building, out of scale for the neighborhood, which is two or three story, mainly wood structures," Brady said, "and now we're looking at a significant mass on the corner of a residential area."

Sinatra Development Director Amy Nagy said construction won't be immediately visible, since the first phase of the project involves removing asbestos from inside the current building before demolition. Nagy said cleaning up the site adds time, so look for completion perhaps next year.

"That's about what we're looking at, provided that there aren't any surprises as we go into the environmental remediation which, again, I'll reiterate, that is a very dirty site," Nagy said. "Dry cleaning, historically, created a lot of environmental impacts that we will be working to clean up."

The project includes 95 underground parking spaces, fitting into the giant hole in the ground resulting from the cleanup.

The Planning Board did force the developers to build the driveway in such a way to force traffic onto West Utica from Atlantic, instead of onto Anderson or Lexington. Neighbor Courtney Bajdas said most neighbors want the driveway on Utica.

"The developer originally planned 22 townhouses for that site, but 22 townhouses wouldn't have been as lucrative," Bajdas said. "The current plan has 54 condos, some selling for more than $1 million. If 22 townhouses were profitable, saying that reworking the design for a new driveway isn't economically feasible is baloney."

The board pushed even harder on Ellicott Development's plan for a complex at Michigan Avenue and William Street, an area filled with African American history, anchored around a Tim Hortons, with apartments upstairs. The board refused to approve the complex unless changes reflecting neighborhood history are made and presented in two weeks.