ZBA to consider controversial apartments near Medical Campus, PUSH Buffalo housing

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The Buffalo Zoning Board of Appeals is poised to review a controversial apartment project next to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, as well as a package of affordable housing on the West Side.

Symphony Property Management, owned and led by Timothy Leboeuf, is seeking eight variances for its planned Lawrence apartment building at 983 Michigan Ave., across from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and the rest of the Medical Campus.

The proposal, first unveiled last year, was immediately met with sharp criticism by neighborhood advocates and residents of the Fruit Belt, prompting Leboeuf to revise it several times in an effort to reduce its scale and make it more palatable.

The current version, released in early March, calls for a large building that fronts on both Michigan and Maple Street, with 133 units, up from 129 previously. The project also would include 78 underground parking spaces, plus 50 additional spaces that would be secured from owners of nearby lots.

The building – two long wings along the streets with an connecting structure in back in the middle of the block – would have five stories on Michigan and four on Maple, with the front facade on Maple pulled back 20 feet in two places in response to community feedback.

That’s intended to break up the length of the building into three “distinct sections” to make it less imposing and try to match the width of neighboring residential houses, officials said in a statement. That also brings it “more in line with the spirit” of the Green Code’s neighborhood zoning on the street, the developer said.

The change removed eight units from the Maple facade, so that only 23 units now front on that street. But the developer added to the Michigan side, which would gain a fifth floor and 12 more units.

However, critics said the project is still too big and inconsistent with the historic neighborhood, and isn’t aimed at those residents because it wouldn’t be affordable for them. They say it also needs too many variances, particularly for its four-story height on Maple.

The ZBA will review the request when it meets at 2 p.m. on June 17.

Leboeuf had hoped to present the $25 million project for approval by the ZBA in March, but the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted that plan, as all meetings were suspended for more than two months. Besides the ZBA, the project is still pending before the Planning Board.

The group – whose acronym stands for People United for Sustainable Housing – is proposing to erect 24 apartments in three projects on Congress Street, Rhode Island Street and West Avenue, according to documents submitted to the ZBA and the Buffalo Planning Board.

Published by The Buffalo News

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