“No Fence Needed for Parking Lot at Former Central Park Plaza”

The first phase of a new residential development where Central Park Plaza once stood has cleared another hurdle on its way through the approval process.

The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals granted variances that allow the project developers – now dubbed Highland Park Village  – to avoid putting up a six-foot fence to screen the parking area on the northern side of Chalmers Avenue.

That particular parking area has 29 spaces, said Marc A. Romanowski, an attorney representing Highland Park Village. He  argued that the area outside the parking lot likely will be developed in the future.

“It makes no sense to put up a fence where you will develop anyway. We believe it would be wasteful to put up a fence for a short-term issue,” Romanowski said.

The other variance allows developers  to widen a driveway leading into the property to 26 feet, up from 24 feet as requested by the Buffalo Fire Department, Romanowski said.

Earlier this month, the Buffalo Planning Board reviewed the proposal for the new housing project at the former Central Park Plaza. Developers presented details of Phase I to build the first of a series of apartment buildings and townhomes on the north and south sides of an extension of Chalmers Avenue at Holden Street.

It’s the start of what would be a five-year, $100 million effort by Ciminelli Real Estate to bring hundreds of new residents to a 27-acre area east of Main Street and south of Amherst Street that is now mostly vacant land.

The initial phase is estimated to cost $13.5 million, said Romanowski, who represents the developers. It features four, three-story apartment buildings with 13 units each for a total of 52 one- and two-bedroom apartments that will occupy 3.9 acres.

Phase I also would 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 townhomes will have garages and will be priced between $200,000 and $230,000.

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.

The development firm owned by Paul Ciminelli is acting on behalf of the project’s primary owner, Louis Ciminelli, who ran LPCiminelli until he was forced to resign in February to battle criminal corruption charges stemming from the firm’s work on the state’s Buffalo Billion initiative.  Louis Ciminelli and his partners purchased and demolished the derelict shopping plaza and then cleaned the site under the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program.

Designed by HHL Architects, the overall plan calls for 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.

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