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Casa Serena Given Thumbs Up by Planning Board

The proposed apartment complex by Anthony LoRusso at 295 Maryland Street (corner of Maryland & West) was given full approval by the City of Buffalo Planning Board Tuesday morning after making some minor changes to a previous plan. Called “Casa Serena”, this project consists of a new building housing 54 market-rate one and two-bedroom apartments fronting West Avenue. There will be a main parking lot accessed from Maryland Ave, along with a smaller parking area located to the south accessed from West Avenue.

casa site plan

 

Balconies will face West Avenue, but the units’ doors will open on to the parking lot behind. Interestingly, this site plan had already been approved by the Planning Board, but the developers went back to the drawing board to incorporate some minor changes in response to community feedback, some of which came from a heavily-attended community meeting on January 19th:
– Unneeded parking was reduced to create additional passive greenspace.
– The dumpster has been moved to back of building, away from the side.
– The overall building size was reduced 15 percent
– The balconies are now to be ‘extruded’ (see picture), where they had been recessed in the previous design. This was done apparently to address criticism that it made the project too “suburban looking”.

FullSizeRender

David Pawlik, representing CSS Contracting, confirmed that in the previous Planning Board presentation there had been vocal community opposition to the older design, which represented motivation for the changes. “There had been some opposition, so what we did is we took those ideas…we took it upon ourselves to look at the project and how can we make it look more enhancing. There were some parts of the project the community didn’t like…we removed those aspects.” He went on to emphasize that Council President and Ellicott District Council Member Darius Pridgen has provided an endorsement letter, and was in full support of the project.

Pawlik indicated there will be board-on-board fencing around the entire perimeter of property, again, done in consultation with neighbors and the community.

The $5.3 million development is being financed by Anthony LoRusso along with Key Bank. James A. Rumsey is the project architect. The 1.6 acre site was purchased by LoRusso from the former Penn Advertising.  It will include 48 one-bedroom and six-two bedroom apartments.  Rents are expected to start at $765.

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Written by Bruce Haydon

Bruce Haydon

Bruce Haydon is an obsessed runner and passionate writer who devotes his time to exploring and supporting his beloved Queen City. Bruce is originally from Ontario, Canada, relocating for work to both Bermuda and New York City before settling down in Buffalo in 2013. After initially suffering withdrawal from NYC life, he quickly grew to love his new home city, and has since become an ardent supporter and urbanist of all things Buffalo. Working in the financial sector by day, Bruce has been writing for Buffalo Rising since 2014, where he covers a number of topics relating to the city's ongoing evolution. With a love of the arts, culture and architecture, he devotes a considerable amount of his spare time researching the rich history of the area's illustrious past.

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  • jim1234664

    Fence around entire property conveniently not shown in rendering. Not anywhere near the curb and no doors to the street its facing. could be worse but this is the only large parcel like this east of Niagara street on the west side… wish they would have been pushed a bit more. 
    Overall I can live with it I guess.

  • I would like to see the ground floor units with their own doors, and maybe their own little garden areas. The easier and more inviting it is to go outside, the more people do! Getting people to spend time outside is the key to everything. More eyes, less crime, closer relationships, better health!

  • Stateofmind

    jim1234664 That’s not the role of the Planning Board….oh wait, yes it is. 
    Agreed.

  • eazydzzzz

    cphuntington97 Fail comment.  Now, would you like some cheese with that whine?

  • eazydzzzz

    jim1234664 Fail comment.  Go cry elsewhere.

  • Carrotflower

    eazydzzzz cphuntington97 “Fail comment” is itself a fail comment. Try again when you have something more substantive to rebut with.

  • grfn

    Appears institutional, governmental. Perhaps like a dorm for UB. Not sure how this ties into the immediate community.

  • eazydzzzz

    Carrotflower eazydzzzz cphuntington97 Hey I’m just putting the whiners in their place.  Now why don’t you quit your crying and type something worthwhile?

  • jim1234664

    eazydzzzz

  • jim1234664

    eazydzzzz Carrotflower cphuntington97

  • rockpile38

    I know really, I personally have no complaints in the world, especially on a public forum, everything is in perfect syncopation, I have no opinion, we are the world, koom by ya, I am a robot.

  • buffalorr

    With all the recent announcements and renderings of new developments in the city looking similar to this, Grant-Forest, Main-Lasalle, Delaware-mansions, people living in the suburbs may soon be complaining about new construction in their own neighborhoods as “too city looking”. Finally, criticism in reverse.

  • micahh64

    grfn Having lived in both a dorm and gov’t housing (military barracks), I can assure you this in no way appears “institutional” or “governmental” . . .

    .

  • Soccerdude5719

    cphuntington97 Agree on the garden idea. They have enough space to create a small garden with plot for each apartment.

  • grfn

    Sorry, not to be contrary, however I too have enjoyed uncles Sam’s housing. This project reminds me of the new on base housing on FT Bragg. as well as the private student housing around UB north campus. It’s simply my impression…A heck of a lot better than a vacant lot.

  • LouisTully

    Blah…
    Put the balconies in the back.  It would clean up the facade and give tenants a view of the skyline.  Better than the mess of balconies fronting the street.
    This design reminds me of the crap housing you’d see all around military bases.  Thrown together to meet demand.

  • LouisTully

    grfn Agreed regaring Fort Bragg.  Exactly what I was thinking.  And it even sort of resembles the Brigade housing they were putting up all over when I left.

  • LouisTully

    I think anytime this project is mentioned there should be at least a brief mention of the despicable past of its proprietor.

  • OldFirstWard

    How about a little more creativity.  This looks like cookie-cutter low income housing.  With all the owner investment coming into the neighborhood restoring many beautiful old homes with character, why backtrack and build this crap on prime infill slots.  What good is a Planning Board if they never reject anything, they are nothing more than a rubber stamp.  
    What happened to quality designs?  How about maintaining 19th century character with modern amenities?  Why not go after the LLC that is sitting on the turn of the century brick apartment building at the southwest corner of Virginia and Prospect?  Even that building boarded up and rotting looks better than this.
    Something along the lines of this Brooklyn Brownstone would command high end rents…and a waiting list.

  • buffalorr

    Louis Tully–You got my curiosity going so I had to see what I could find. LoRusso is a former judge who’s been barred from the judicial system and fined $60,000.
    Small wonder now that this crappy looking design has been proposed by LoRusso’s company. Look back on his history of sexual harassment among other charges and you’ll see he has little regard for others let alone the people of Buffalo. The concept of the “Built Environment” must be completely over his head. Thanks for clueing us in on this creep.

  • Elsie1

    OldFirstWard I couldn’t have said it better myself. Your picture would distinguish Buffalo…the low income vinyl sided apartment complex could be anywhere USA and it wont do much more than provide residential infill.
    At some point, Buffalonians need to think about what kind of city they want to be…if they don’t then Buffalo will continue to loose its distinctiveness and identity.

  • greenca

    Or perhaps these developments merely reflect the architectural trends in which time they are being built, as late 19th century architecture reflected the prevailing trends during that time.

  • grfn

    So, if it’s good enough for FT Bragg, good enough for a city on the rise. Um. Yeah. Sorry guys, honestly…this looks like a stand alone compound, cutting off community engagement rather than strengthening. Again, better than an empty lot I guess.

  • LouisTully
    the balconies are the only good feature on an otherwise forgettable facade.  skylines are fairly static and not as intrinsically interesting as other people.  balconies in the front offer eyes on the street, plus a front row seat on the life around you, a chance to schmooze and make acquaintances.

  • Elsie1

    As is a lot of Buffalo residential construction, we 99% of the time get…better than nothing…instead of wow that’s wonderful….that will really contribute to our city

  • LouisTully

    grad94 LouisTully And a chance to look at people’s collection of crap they stick on their balcony to get out of the way.  I live around the corner.  I can think of a lot of porches that would do the community a better service if they were behind the house.

  • LouisTully

    buffalorr When I looked into his past… it’s nauseating.  The guy is a complete sicko.  Like, the type of demented behavior you see on Law & Order type shows.

  • Gobills716

    Big picture here folks. A $5m 50 unit building is a great addition to the neighborhood. For years I’ve wondered when something would fill this corner. I’m glad it’s something like this.

  • ExWNYer

    Bland. This could any cheap anonymous development just off some exit next to a Waffle Housei and gas station n any number of southern towns or cities. How about something that is more fitting of a city with a rich architectural history?

  • Stateofmind

    Unfortunately, Serena was always the mostly dowdy, and least desired, at the dance. So much so, most of her peers steered clear of her. 
    So, so terribly sad. I can understand why poor Serena had wished she had never been born. Now more than ever.

  • His Majesty

    greenca
    You’d better quit it with the common sense and nuance–this is Buffalo Rising.

  • Looks good but they should build a twin unit next to it as part of a Phase II.

  • smills

    I’m sorry but this is awful.

  • wtupperguy

    At least the dumpster isn’t right out my kitchen anymore.

  • David Steele

    gag

  • tomcs

    Why can we not design a building with a main front entrance facing the street? Is walking the extra 50 feet that much of an inconvenience? I understand we live in Buffalo and the winter is particularly harsh. While this building provides much needed development to this parcel it lacks some critical criteria to be considered truly urban design. A front entrance would help incorporate the design with street/neighborhood (create permeability).

  • LouisTully

    I should add that I had the orientation wrong.  I thought it was going to be fronting Maryland.  That would’ve given better skyline views, from the back.
    I feel for the holdout property owner.  God Bless.  But, yeesh.

  • OldFirstWard Those brownstones were built for rich people. This complex is built for people who can pay $760/month. That’s why it looks like the way it looks.

  • All the complaining. This is the corner of Maryland and West for goodness sakes. It’s not Elmwood Village. If you said five years ago that someone would build MARKET RATE  housing on this block you would say that person was insane. Now someone is building there. Be happy. And you complainers never drive by this block anyway, so stop soiling your diapers.

  • MichaelJarosz

    wtupperguy 
    That was intended as a convenience. Now you have to walk through 90 inches of snow to dump the litter box.

  • MichaelJarosz

    cphuntington97 
    Isn’t that what Paul Rudolph did on Niagara Street? At the time, that project was hailed as a design triumph. Look at it now.  The average Buffalo resident driving by sees it as a “project” in the pejorative sense of the word.

  • jim1234664

    rubagreta
    huh? I live on west 3 blocks north and drive by this every day… sometimes more than once. Not everyone here lives in the EV

  • jim1234664 rubagreta It beats the vacant lot. And when it’s finished, watch for upgrades of surrounding properties. This is a win-win, except to the architectural ninnies, who think you can build a palace when the rents start at $760/month.

  • jim1234664

    rubagreta jim1234664
    Insert two or 3 doors to the street on West, Remove fence, slide building to curb and most everyone would be OK with this.
    Cost: negligible

  • smills

    Im on West every week, so while I’m not a resident, I’m also “never driving past this block” either. Its actually irrelevant where I live. This building has bad urban form that could have been rectified for little to no extra cause.
    Five years ago is not today. This is poorly designed and cheap looking. You should demand more for your immediate neighborhood.

  • LouisTully

    rubagreta You have a fair point.  But, I’m complaining.  I live a block away and drive by daily.  So…. yeah.

  • arcmorris

    On a different matter – Paul Kolkmeyer also obtained approvals for 251 Main Street at the same planning board meeting.  Are there site plan, building plans and elevations publicly available for folks to see?  I am trying to understand how they are going to artfully add windows to the party wall facing the parking lot and carve 8 apartments out of the ground floor without butchering this building and ruining the development potential of the adjacent parking lot.
    All will be revealed eventually, but it would be nice for folks on this forum to know how they did it and with what degree of success.

  • MichaelJarosz cphuntington97 imho, the ground level gardens on the Shoreline Apartments are far too private to serve the function of a semi private/semi public space with the goal of inviting people into the public space.

  • BfloForTheWin

    rubagreta jim1234664 http://bettercities.net/news-opinion/blogs/steve-mouzon/21412/frontages-citys-smallest-part-greatest-asset The City of Buffalo’s Green Code facebook page posted this link about the importance of frontage. I wonder if they’ll actually practice what they preach in a few short months.
    Having a front door is common sense building, not just reserved for architectural palaces.  This is a gated community, with the back facing the neighborhood. And yes, I do live off of Hudson Street not far from here.

  • OldFirstWard

    rubagreta
    “This complex is built for people who can pay $760/month. That’s why it looks like the way it looks.”
    I think we all figured that out yesterday.

  • 42N78W

    How do the balconies make it more urban? (real question I dont understand how that makes it less suburban compared to a recessed balcony). At least your views would be a little better because you wouldnt have a wall in the way, and your unit would probably be a little bigger because the balcony wouldnt eat up part of the floor plan.  Still dont quite see how that makes it more urban but whatever.  Overall this could be worse, although I wish they chose one color instead of 3 for the accent colors makes it look busy and mismatched that way.

  • buffalorr

    42N78W–“How do the balconies make it more urban”–Easy. The tenant’s can run retractable clothes lines between them. Unless the complex goes “luxury”, then you’ll have a coin laundry and a granite counter top or two.

  • arcmorris

    I agree. There are things that can be done with this design that would make it a better urban building (see above). Some simple moves would not cost more money, but make it a better project.

  • arcmorris

    Is there a schedule yet to bring the Green Code to council for adoption?

  • wtupperguy

    It beats me getting attacked by yellow jackets every time I’m in my yard or want to open a window. I have a rear lot house that this dumpster would have been 20 feet from I’m glad it’s moved.

  • wtupperguy

    rubagreta It is becoming the new EV. People are priced out of Allentown and EV and are getting pushed out further (which is a good thing). I am one of these people Which is why I live on the first block of Tupper.
    AlsoThere is no reason why any street couldn’t be the “next” EV. The city should be filled with many flourishing vibrant neighborhoods, so one asking for a little “give a $hit” from our developers should be expected. This shouldn’t be the Vinyl siding district.

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz

    jim1234664 eazydzzzz Carrotflower cphuntington97 
    Mike Driscoll meme?  This is terrific.

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz

    cphuntington97 MichaelJarosz well said.

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz

    arcmorris was going to raise this question myself a little while back….

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz

    rubagreta Pretty sure this guy doesn’t even live in the area, so, there’s that (if I’m right)

  • janreimers

    Buffalonians. Always making the perfect the enemy of the good.

  • LouisTully

    janreimers You’re right, we’re asking too much of a pervert.  We should all just be happy as long as he’s not still harassing women, let him do whatever he wants.

  • JayDBuffalo

    tomcs I dont see why it cant have both a front and back entrance.