“Buffalo Planning Board Approves First Stage of Highland Park Village”

An effort to turn the former Central Park Plaza site into the new Highland Park Village is now cleared to begin in coming months.

After a two-week delay to obtain needed zoning variances, and because of a public notice glitch, Buffalo’s Planning Board on Monday approved the first phase of construction for one of the biggest redevelopment initiatives in Buffalo, by geography.

It’s the start of what would be a five-year, $100 million project to bring hundreds of new residents to a 27-acre area east of Main Street, now mostly vacant land.

Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. , on behalf of project owner Louis Ciminelli, intends to construct dozens of apartments and townhomes on the north and south sides of an extension of Chalmers Avenue at Holden Street.

Initial plans by HHL Architects call for four three-story apartment buildings with 13 units each, for a total of 52 market-rate apartments expected to rent for between $900 and $1,500 a month.

The $24 million project would also include 32 single-family attached townhomes, with a mix of two- and three-bedroom designs, ranging in size from 1,200 to 1,500 square feet.

The company plans to market the townhomes, which will have garage parking, at prices between $200,000 and $230,000.

The larger redevelopment ultimately envisions a mix of apartments, walk-up flats and townhomes, with as many as 717 residential units. It will include mixed-income, affordable and market-rate units. Some will be for rent, while others will be sold. Single-family detached homes are also a possibility in future phases.

It’s aimed at creating “workforce housing,” particularly for employees at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, while capitalizing on the site’s proximity to Metro Rail and bus routes to encourage a “transit-oriented development.”

The traffic demand management report for the project even includes plans to work with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to bring buses into the site.

“This sets the stage for moving forward,” said Planning Board Chairman James Morrell. “Based on our guidelines that we put in place, I think it does answer everything.”

The project includes 56 off-street parking spaces, 19 on-street spaces and 42 garage spaces, for a total of 117.

There will also be a small amount of neighborhood retail services, such as a grocery store, restaurant and coffee shop. That’s currently designated for a city-owned parcel on Chalmers Avenue that Ciminelli is negotiating to develop.

The buildings will be a blend of red brick veneer, fiber cement siding and other materials, with gray, blue, tan and green colors. The plan also includes 25,000 square feet of public park space, landscaping, a playground and play area, street improvements and bike racks, in keeping with Green Code requirements.

Ciminelli previously won approval two years ago to divide the overall property into three large lots, as it worked to clear and the land in preparation for redevelopment.

But, with plans now moving forward in smaller stages, the developer on Monday obtained permission to subdivide the first parcel even further, creating separate lots for the four apartment buildings and each of the individual townhomes.

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