The former Penn/Lamar Advertising property at the corner of West Avenue and Maryland Street could see a two-building, 83-unit apartment project constructed under a proposal by developer Anthony Lorusso. Lorusso’s firm, APL Properties, owns the Brent Manor apartments at 366 Elmwood and a number of other properties on the West Side.
Approximately 30 people attended a Wednesday night information meeting on the project and raised concerns about the project’s design, site cleanup and plans for a laundry facility in one of the buildings.
Two 3-story, flat roof buildings facing West Avenue with parking in the rear are proposed. Entrances to a 64 car parking area would be provided from Maryland Street and via a driveway from West Avenue. An existing owner-occupied brick house on West sits in the center of the APL property and the owner is reportedly unwilling to sell. The two new buildings are proposed to be constructed on either side of the existing house with the driveway entrance from West Avenue running along the South side of the house.
The proposal includes 69 one-bedroom units of 578 square feet and 14 two-bedroom units of approximately 1,100 square feet each. All units will have a covered balcony. The buildings, as shown in the concept drawings at the meeting, are largely square and flat fronted with a slight bump-out in the center. Rents are projected to range from $675 for a one-bedroom to $1,100 for the larger units.
The buildings will be clad in composite concrete formed to look like textured clapboard siding and each building will incorporate two colors into the facade to break up the line of the building and add some visual interest.
A publicly accessible laundry facility would be located in the north building with an entrance on the corner of Maryland and West. This part of the proposal caused the greatest concern and comment and was almost universally opposed by those in attendance. A zoning variance is required for the laundry facility.
This is old commercial site is considered a brownfield. APL has a cleanup proposal into the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and is awaiting a decision regarding remediation of the site. If they receive a positive response from the DEC and no resistance from the City, they anticipate breaking ground in July and being open in approximately 18 months.
At the meeting, Lorusso stated that his target tenant is working single people and couples without children as well as students from D’Youville and medical students working on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC). He envisions that the property will be desirable to BNMC institutional staff due to the low rents.
The property is zoned to permit multi-unit residential. Many of the residents in attendance expressed dissatisfaction that the developer is not proposing higher-end units that would draw more affluent tenants and many spoke out against the density.
Neighbors stated that their preference for the land would be a grouping of single-family homes. Lorusso estimated a low-end sale price of such houses at $180,000 and suggested that no one would pay that amount. That was disputed by several in the audience who stated what they had recently paid for their own home or the listing price of nearby properties.
When asked if he considered condominium units or mixed-use with a combination or rental units and owner-occupied, Lorusso responded that financial institutions would not provide capital for owner-occupied units of this size at this time.
There is a Zoning Board hearing on November 17 at 2:30 pm, the main focus of which will be to allow a variance for the public laundry facility. The project has not been reviewed by the Planning Board.
Lorusso did not return a message left at his office.