New details emerge on Elmwood Crossing, called ‘coolest neighborhood’ in Buffalo

By By Jonathan D. Epstein, The Buffalo News, N.Y.

Elmwood Village residents got another chance Thursday night to review the progress on the planned Elmwood Crossing project, as developers Nick Sinatra and William Paladino showed off the latest versions of their proposals to transform the former Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo campus.

The developers — selected a year ago by Kaleida Health for the redevelopment project — unveiled the newest elements of their planned $100 million project during an “open house” program in Kleinhans Music Hall.

Those changes included more green space throughout the project site, proposed facade designs for the Variety Tower and Alfiero Building, revisions to the parking plans, and a new entry and courtyard into the midst of the old hospital core.

Besides showing off new concept designs and site plans by Kideney Architects, the developers also provided new details on how the buildings would be reused. The goal was to engage a broader segment of the community than just the Project Advisory Committee that the developers have been working with.

“We’re thrilled about the direction that this is going in,” Sinatra said during an earlier interview. “It’s going to be the coolest neighborhood in the city of Buffalo.”

Sinatra & Co. Real Estate and Paladino’s Ellicott Development Co. are undertaking the reuse of the 8-acre former hospital campus, converting the 600,000-square-foot complex into a new residential, retail and commercial community in the heart of the Elmwood Village.

The multi-phase project will include more than 220 apartments, 27 condominiums, 22 town houses, a 75-room hotel, an urban grocery, boutique shops, office space and an EduKids daycare center. Most of the housing will be market-rate or luxury, but the developers committed to making about 20 percent of the apartments affordable to those earning 80 percent of the area median income.

Most of the existing hospital buildings — including the Variety and Tanner towers and Alfiero — would be retained and reused, while two buildings would be expanded. A 34,400-square-foot, low-rise portion of the tower complex will be demolished to make room for a new courtyard accessible from both Hodge Avenue and Bryant Street, with a two-level parking ramp for condo owners above a portion of it.

“We will be redeveloping and further stabilizing a neighborhood for decades to come,” Paladino said.

Tanner, along with three low-rise historic buildings known as the Annex, MH and D buildings will be renovated with historic tax credits, under state and federal supervision, with limited exterior changes. But Variety and Alfiero will get completely new looks, with new materials, designs and colorful artwork. All the buildings will also be renamed with consideration for the site’s history.”We think it’s a nice opportunity to introduce some contrast into the neighborhood,” said Sinatra Director of Development Amy Nagy.

Under the newest plans, the developers significantly increased the amount of green space and public space, in response to community pressure and feedback. Pocket parks, play areas, open lawns, gardens and terraces line the edges of the entire project along Bryant and Hodge Avenue, as well as linking the two streets in the interior.

The developers also incorporated a new two-story-high open-air terraced courtyard and a glass-enclosed breezeway along the front of the main hospital buildings on Bryant Street. That will include tables, seating, fire pits and greenery, providing a common area for hotel guests and residents but also a public point of interaction with pedestrians and neighbors. The existing archways along the front of the hospital buildings will be maintained but will be covered by a glass curtain wall as part of the walkway.

On West Utica, a surface parking lot has been moved to the rear of the planned grocery store building, putting it next to the 600-space Gallagher Ramp that the developers are trying to buy from the city. That was in response to feedback from the advisory committee, which didn’t want parking in front.

A covered walkway will link the garage to the grocery building, which will also have several other retail stores on the first floor and 48 apartments on the upper three levels, at what’s dubbed the West Utica Lofts. The fourth floor will step back from the building’s front to reduce the street-level impact.

Next to the grocery, Essex Homes will work with CJS Architects to construct the three-story for-sale townhomes in three clusters on Utica, while the EduKids daycare will occupy a building on Hodge, with a single apartment above it.

Nagy said officials have started planning the interiors of the town houses, which will each have two bedrooms and an option for a third or another “bonus” room, as well as two bathrooms, an attached garage and a patio. Units can also be customized, and she said prices will likely range from the high $600,000 to the upper $800,000 range.

The Variety and Alfiero buildings will see the greatest exterior changes. At the 10-story Variety, the condos with balconies will occupy the top three floors, although the exact number, size and configuration are still being finalized. Prices have not been set, as condo offerings must first be approved by the state Attorney General’s Office, but some units are expected to fetch $1 million.

The seventh floor immediately below the condos will feature a health and wellness facility, possibly with a chiropractor or massage therapist. That will be followed by four floors of hotel and meeting rooms, a floor of office space, and the ground floor with amenity retail space and “back-of-house” functions. The hotel will carry a national brand, but Nagy said they weren’t yet ready to identify the flag.

Next door, the Tanner building will have one floor of retail space on the ground level and 49 apartments on the next eight floors. Alfiero’s three floors would all be offices, including one for co-working space.

Finally, three low-rise historic buildings that were part of the hospital complex will have about 100 apartments spread over their four floors, with 27 units in Building D, 37 in Building MH and 36 in the Annex.

The entire project is expected to take up to five years to complete, through 2022. The first component — a new five-story mixed-use building that will be erected at the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Bryant Street — has already been approved by the city, and some first-floor retail tenants have been lined up. Brownfield cleanup work will begin “very, very soon,” Sinatra said, and “we’ll be in the ground in the next couple of months after that, depending on the weather.”

The rest of the project is still subject to municipal review. Officials are finalizing a draft environmental impact statement for the entire site and will submit that to the city in the next few weeks, Nagy said. That will go to the city Planning Board for approval, after which the developers can bring individual site plans to the city.

The companies also are asking the Common Council to designate the project as a “planned unit development” with site-specific zoning rules that will enable a more comprehensive and coordinated redevelopment.

Both the environmental and zoning processes are expected to wrap up by early 2019. “Once that’s done, we’re ready to rock and roll,” Sinatra said. “We’ll have everything else selected in terms of architects and drawings. We hope to be in the spring and summer doing construction on the rest of the project.”

This article provided by NewsEdge.