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Riverside Residents Looking to Modify Proposed Rite Aid Project

Ellicott Development is planning a replacement Rite Aid for the heart of Riverside and neighbors are not happy about the proposed design. Ellicott CEO Bill Paladino presented draft plans recently to the the Black Rock Riverside Good Neighbor Planning Alliance. The proposals calls for demolition of a number of buildings at Tonawanda and Ontario streets including the site of the former Riverside Men’s shop.

Owner Charlie Faso applied for demolition permits to take down the Riverside Men’s shop 783-89 Tonawanda Street and 190 Ontario Street in early 2011. The Buffalo Preservation Board unanimously voted to “recommend not to demolish” 783 and 789 Tonawanda Street but supported demolition of a rear structure at 190 Ontario Street citing its poor condition. Unfortunately since the buildings were not in a preservation district or landmarked, the Preservation Board’s recommendation was just that, a recommendation. The City issued the permits and the corner landmark was swiftly demolished. The balance of the proposed site has a number of owners.

Ellicott is proposing a new store to replace the Rite Aid at 801 Tonawanda Street. It would be built on the existing store’s parking lot and 809 Tonawanda Street that would be demolished. The new store’s parking lot would be located on the existing Rite Aid footprint and extend to Ontario Street. A Riverside gateway sign at the intersection would be incorporated into the landscape design and Ellicott is said to be open to building a smaller building on the corner in the future.

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Buffalo Rising was forwarded copies of letters sent to Councilman Joe Golombek following the Planning Alliance meeting.

“I don’t believe that people understand the amount of urban fabric that will be lost, and not even remotely replace with this proposal,” says one. “While everyone is focused trying to put lipstick on a pig, they aren’t realizing that the Tonawanda and Ontario corner will become parking lot and empty lot wasteland. Only this uninspired building and Schmidts will stand isolated. All this destruction for an over abundance of parking and a drive through?”

He continues, “Sure, one can say that some of these buildings should go or be improved. But, they do provide an edge to the street, which is defining principal of an urban fabric. Free standing building in a sea of emptiness do not.”

And he suggests some changes:
• Work with the existing building and expand to the north, and possibly south
• Incorporate a façade improvement along with an expansion
• Combine parking with Dollar General parking
• Negotiate a smaller number of parking spaces. My observations have never seen either lot full, and many people do park on the street
• Locate the drive thru to the north side, if it has to be part of the project
• Eliminate the need to enter the site from Ontario
• Reserve the remaining Riverside Mens Shop property for another building

The letter writers were not happy with the demolitions being planned or the site plan.

Said the second neighborhood resident, “I am very disappointed. It is a mass bulldozing and will only hurt the neighborhood. They plan on removing most of the block, especially the storefronts. On Tonawanda Street they are taking down three and a half storefronts and replacing them with the one Rite Aid. On Ontario Street, where there are currently seven store/house fronts on the street we will be left with three.”

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He was not a fan of the retail building either.

“It looks like a banal, mediocre, suburban box pharmacy and I am sure the old facade under the building they are demolishing is more interesting. But we can survive a bad looking building. We cannot survive a paved barren streetscape.”

He continues, “One store may thrive economically, but it will be killing the opportunity for anyone else; so it may look like a good deal financially but it is death for the neighborhood. Riverside Men’s Store has been gone for a while but people still talk about it. That’s because it owned the corner and had a presence. A big sign that say’s RIVERSIDE and honors a flat empty parking area does not say good things about the place.”

Photo by Forgotten Buffalo
Photo by Forgotten Buffalo

According to Ellicott Development CEO Bill Paladino, the project is constrained by two factors: the site and Rite Aid’s operations at its current facility.

“The layout of the site is pretty set though we are looking at some modifications to the building,” says Paladino. “The existing store has to stay in operation during construction so there is no room to build any other way.”

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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