Developer Gerry Buchheit is proposing changes to his proposed $100 million Queen City Landing (QCL) project on the outer harbor. Buchheit purchased the former Freezer Queen plant site in 2007 and had floated plans to redevelop the building for residential use but later demolished the facility and proposed a new building on the site. With remedial work complete and lawsuits dismissed, he is back with a revised proposal for the site.
Some background on the hurdles the developer has faced from the Application to the Planning Board:
On or about April 4, 2016, QCL submitted applications for site plan, subdivision plat and demolition approval to the Planning Board for a proposed redevelopment of the Site that included, among other things, construction of a twenty-three story mixed-use building, and a standalone parking ramp structure in addition to surface parking. On May 31, 2016, after careful consideration, the Planning Board issued a negative declaration for the Approved Project. That same day, the Planning Board also issued site plan approval.
Shortly thereafter, the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Inc. and Margaret Wooster, Clayton S. “Jay” Burney, Jr., Lynda K. Stephens and James E. Carr (collectively “Wooster”) commenced separate Article 78 proceedings against QCL and the City to vacate all City approvals and for violations of the State Environmental Quality Review Act and its implementing regulations at 6 NYCRR Part 617. On or about September 30, 2016, Riverkeeper’s and Wooster’s petitions were denied and the First Actions were dismissed on the merits. Shortly thereafter, Riverkeeper and Wooster filed notices of appeal to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department.
On November 22, 2016, QCL filed an application with the Planning Board seeking an amended site plan approval and preliminary subdivision approval for the Approved Project. The amendment application sought approval to move the building twenty-five feet to the north for constructability reasons to facilitate greater green space and open area’s along the southern water’s edge, reduction in building and parking structure height, surface parking lot changes, and installation of floating docks.
On January 3, 2017 the Planning Board approved QCL’s First Amended Site Plan. On January 16, 2017, Wooster commenced a second Article 78 proceeding against QCL and the City. On March 13, 2017, the Planning Board approved the final subdivision plat, which was conditioned on the resolution of the Second Action. On May 5, 2017, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department affirmed dismissal of the First Actions. On May 31, 2017, QCL filed foundation plans with the City, which were approved and accepted by the City, and in June of 2017, the City granted QCL public sewer and water approvals. In August of 2017, the Second Action was dismissed on the merits. The Court found, among other things, that the Planning Board was properly designated as lead agency under SEQRA; complied with the provisions of SEQRA in issuing its determination of significance; and was not arbitrary or capricious in issuing its project approvals. Wooster again filed a notice of appeal, however, that appeal was voluntarily withdrawn on June 18, 2018 thereby ending all outstanding litigation related to the Approved Project.
The project has evolved and Diamond Schmitt Architects of Toronto has prepared a new design for the project. From the application:
The Project Changes will include a reduction to a twenty story building with approximately 35,000 square feet of restaurant(s), retail and commercial space on the ground floor; structured parking on floors three through five (instead of a stand-alone parking garage); and approximately 19,000 square feet of restaurant and banquet space on the sixth floor.
Above the sixth floor restaurant/banquet space will be thirteen levels of apartments with 206 units, 98 of which will have waterfront balconies, and a mechanical penthouse that will include common areas for residential tenants. The Project Changes also include a waterfront terrace on the ground floor, surface parking, public bike and walking paths to the waterfront, passive recreational areas, docks available for public use, and public waterfront access.
Certain modifications to the Approved Project are now being proposed that will include a reduction in height of 48 feet and 3 stories, integration of the stand along parking garage into the structure, reduction in building footprint of approximately 20,000 square feet, reduction in the amount of impervious areas, increase in the amount of green space and stormwater management, and other related changes.
QCL is seeking approval from the Common Council to designate the entire 20-acre Site as a Planned Unit Development (“PUD”) and append the City’s zoning map and text accordingly. The PUD allows for the creative and innovative development of property that would otherwise not be possible through strict application of the standards of the Zoning Ordinance. QCL is also seeking Major Site Plan review and approval from the Planning Board. Some modifications are being sought:
The Planning Board will begin its review of the revised project on Monday. If all of the City approvals are obtained, work is expected to start this spring and take two years to complete. Any future redevelopment of the remaining approximately 12 acres of the site will be based on market demand.