In response to an article posted earlier this morning on BR, Save 180 & 184 West Utica, developer Nick Sinatra (Sinatra & Company Real Estate) presented a counterpoint to the opinion written by the author. Sinatra took a minute to ensure community members are fully informed, to avoid inaccurate assumptions. “Telling it the way it is so important,” said Sinatra. “People need to know what has transpired over a period of over two years – what has led us to this point in the development process.”
There are four things that Sinatra said should be understood:
- The Elmwood Crossing project has been a sum of many compromises.
- It is an irresponsible narrative to simplify issues down to a request that the developer accept less profits for their efforts.
- The Parkhurst Square townhome project is a good project.
- 184 W Utica is a sacrifice, yet it was always understood that the redevelopment of the former WCHOB campus was going to demand sacrifice and compromise.
Sinatra pointed out the the Elmwood Crossing project, led by both his company, along with Ellicott Development, has a track record of making concessions, to appease community members, including the preservation community. “Keep in mind, my original plan was to knock down the tower and most of the campus,” he explains. “Additionally, we wanted to put Dash’s Market on Elmwood, on the site where the Casa di Pizza building is. We were also going to knock down two houses on W. Utica to accommodate the new building. When we joined with Ellicott for Elmwood Crossing, we responded to concerns by pivoting and relocating the market concept on W. Utica, in the spirit of working within community sentiments, focusing on the bigger picture on the street”. 471 Elmwood and 137 and 143 Hodge have all been retained and have been or are in the process of rehabilitated. Working jointly, the Elmwood Crossing team has in fact sacrificed on a variety of elements, including program and design, at several intervals.
Select community members have suggested that the developers sacrifice townhome units to retain the structure at 180 and 184 W Utica, simplifying that it will simply be a concession on profits by the developer. In our market, the most profitable approach to using the land at 188 W Utica is a multistory apartment building. The development team maintains that the proposed townhomes are a better choice for the project and the community and has made a reasonable sacrifice in the name of profits for the what it deems as the best project.
Buffalo desperately needs ‘for sale’ new housing options. “We are finally seeing companies look at Buffalo, to move here, or expand their workforce. At this time, Buffalo does not have an adequate supply of housing that appeals to the townhome or condominium buyer,” said Sinatra. “This maximizes the type of housing product available to meet this need – to attract those companies and residents who want something other than an apartment or a large, older home.”
“Our plan widely shared over a multiyear period, and subject to a robust public review, has now hit a roadblock, due to the filing of an application to landmark the home at 184 W Utica.” The SEQRA review and Planned Unit Development (PUD) processes both were clear on the developers plans. “As we neared a starting point to infilling a vacant surface parking lot, a small group has come forth to obstruct a great component of our plan.” Neighbors report that the houses have sat vacant for ten years. At one point they were marketed for sale, and no one stepped up to buy and renovate them. The assumed primary factor for this is because of the significant deterioration on the inside (photos provided).
No offers made. No one argued to save them. Sinatra comments that it is now being asked that the Elmwood Crossing team renovate them for a cost outside of what they will be worth in value, at the cost of a great project? The development team responded to design criticisms with a willingness to consider alternatives. They also presented to the Planning Board that they have evaluated alternatives in which the townhome count was reduced. At the end of the day, this is not an option that will be further considered.
“We have the same infrastructure costs, the same project costs for the most part, with much less yield and added expenses. And what others are proposing is not pleasing, with less green space – another thing that some members of the community said that they wanted, and we accommodated.”
“We are driving progress that will create necessary neighborhood momentum. We aren’t knocking down those buildings because we don’t believe in preservation – you have to be able to look at the big picture to see what is practical, and what it not,” said Sinatra. He continued, “We have a great track record in Buffalo as being preservationists including these projects:
- The Place on Lexington
- Mid City 1661 Main (not historic tax credit eligible) 50 units, 7600K commercial
- Phoenix Brewery (Historic Tax Credits)- 3 major state awards for best adaptive reuse. 31 units, and commercial
- Fenton village 1524, 1526 Main, 945 Ferry (did not qualify for Historic Tax Credits) 31 units, 10K commercial
- Hodge properties 137 and 143 – rehabs
- Casa di Pizza – Duff’s rehab instead of Dash’s
- 70 Harvard place – 24 units Historic Tax Credits”
He concluded, “We’ve been fighting for two years, and we’re still fighting. And there’s a cost to that – opportunities have been lost. The jobs are coming and we’re just sitting on our thumbs. We just lost 100 jobs to Toronto because we’re behind the times when it comes to placemaking projects like this, with ‘for sale’ condos in vibrant communities. We’re getting watered down projects because a handful of people say that they don’t like this, or they don’t like that… and guess what you get? Nothing. Time kills deals, which is what we’re seeing right now.”