The developer behind a proposed Fruit Belt apartment building is heading back to the Zoning Board of Appeals after making changes to the project. Symphony Property Management modified its plans after its previous plan went sideways over concerns about parking, project design, and neighborhood gentrification.
The Lawrence, named after Harlem Renaissance artist Jacob Lawrence, is a 129-unit apartment project on a site that fronts both Michigan Avenue and Maple Street adjacent to the Medical Campus. Responding to input received from the Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board and the public, architect Stieglitz Snyder Architecture reduced the number of stories from five to four by sinking the parking completely below grade.
Façade changes were also made. The design now has approximately six different building elements that are an average of 40 feet in width. Also, there are glass stair towers which visually separate the ends of the building from the center section and bring much more transparency to the Maple Street side of the building. The design team also added French doors with Juliette balconies to create six additional visual entrances facing Maple. A mural is also now planned for the building’s south façade.
More from the project application:
The proposed structure will accommodate 78 parking spaces in an enclosed garage on the ground/basement floor. The first through fourth floor will have a mixture of Studio, One Bedroom and Two Bedroom units. The first floor will have a fitness center, offices for the building manager, (7) studio apartments, (13) one bedroom apartments, and (9) two bedroom apartments. The second, third and fourth floors will each have (8) studio apartments, (13) one bedroom apartments, and (11) two bedroom apartments. Two lobbies, one along Michigan Ave and the other on Maple Street are accessible from the ground floor.
The building’s massing, disposition and setbacks seek to bridge the context of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the Fruit Belt. Enclosed parking is specifically included to prevent straining the already limited parking within the Fruit Belt and to limit the adverse impact of increased traffic on the neighborhood.
Several design strategies were utilized to mitigate any adverse impacts that a project of this density would have on adjacent residential neighborhoods. First, and most significantly, the building was reduced by one whole story by further sinking the parking structure below grade. This had a further benefit by improving the facade along Maple to be much more residential in nature.
Reducing the massing of the elevation along Maple Street is achieve by using vertical elements to break the mass of the facade and using utility bricks which have a nominal dimension of 4″ x 12″. Further, glass stairwells, balconies and simulated entrances better divide the elevation and allow the building to better relate to Maple Street.
The Applicants believe that the significant changes in the proposed design are responsive to public concerns about the scale of the Project and mitigate potential impacts to the greatest extent practicable.
The developers have also committed to a series of measure to help the Fruit Belt neighborhood. From The Buffalo News:
Symphony will team up with Heart of the City Neighborhoods, a nonprofit, to help preserve existing homes and develop vacant parcels in the neighborhood. The nonprofit will use the developer’s funds to support affordable renovations of homes and create affordable housing for first-time homebuyers and renters.
The firm will also provide funding and technical support to Alex Wright and the African Heritage Food Co-op’s efforts to bring more fresh food into the community at the Carlton Street store. And it pledged to offer job and contractor training and to hire local women- and minority-owned businesses during the construction process.
Finally, Symphony is partnering with Wajed LLC to include local artwork in the project, by commissioning art, bringing rotating exhibitions, putting up murals and creating “artist-in-residence” programs – even after the building is completed.
The Zoning Board will consider the project at its meeting on Wednesday.