Chason Affinity Cos.' $25 million plan for the corner of Elmwood and Forest avenues faces significant hurdles, but the developer is working to obtain the approvals necessary for the ambitious project. The company unveiled its preliminary design to neighborhood residents two weeks ago. Affinity Chief Executive Jeffrey Birtch says they have received a "fair amount of positive support" for the development which calls for an eight-story building combing retail, a boutique hotel with 125 rooms, enclosed parking for 160 cars, and 20 upper-floor condominiums.
The company will need the full support of neighboring residents in order to build the mixed-use project as envisioned. Deed restrictions, which sunk a previous proposal from Savarino Cos. for a Wyndham Hotel at the site, prevent commercial uses. Removing the restrictions is a straight-forward "administrative procedure" according to Birtch, but 100 percent of the property owners on the Elmwood/Forest/Bird/Granger block must sign-off on the change. Neighbors will be meeting privately on March 4 to discuss the proposal.
"If the deed restrictions are not lifted, there are other things we can do," says Birtch whose company purchased the site for over $2 million. He says the likely alternatives would involve "student or affordable housing" since their studies show that a market-rate housing development at the location would be infeasible. "Our first choice is the hotel project," he says.
Birtch says "demand for hotel rooms in the neighborhood is huge and it stands to benefit the community." He is confident that with Buffalo State College one block away and a growing number of cultural attractions such as the Burchfield Penney Art Gallery and the Darwin Martin House nearby, there is room for both his project and the hotel planned as part of the Richardson Campus reuse.
Chason Affinity Cos. and architect Charles Gordon's design seeks to address Granger Place residents' initial concerns raised one year ago before the site was purchased.
"We have gone the extra mile to create a handsome backside," says Birtch. "All three sides of the building (Forest, Elmwood and Granger) will be attractive. Windows in the rear elevation will be angled at 45 degrees so there are no direct views of Granger Place residences."
A 26 foot landscaped buffer will be provided between the building and the east property line along Granger Place.
The ground floor layout shown in these renderings includes retail use at the corner, the hotel lobby mid-block, and the balance of the Elmwood frontage 'hidden' parking. That will change after the plan was shown to the Elmwood Village Association.
"They stated loud and clear that additional retail is needed along Elmwood Avenue," says Birtch. "We have agreed to tweak the plan to do that."
Chason Affinity anticipates breaking ground on the project in spring 2010.