An overflow crowd Monday evening in the Burchfield Penney Art Center gave mixed reviews to the biggest development project to hit Buffalo’s Delaware District in decades – TM Montante Development’s plans for the former Millard Fillmore Hospital site on Gates Circle.
There were few complaints about Canterbury Woods Gates Circle, the tall brick, steel and glass $28 million city campus building for Canterbury Woods, the senior living center in Amherst, which would face the circle on Delaware Avenue and replace the 11-story hospital tower.
“We want to have no negative impact whatsoever on the circle,” TM Montante President J. Timothy Vaeth said during the hourlong presentation in the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium. “It’s a huge, huge amenity for us.”
Little attention was given at the meeting to the complex of low-rise buildings with scores of town house and condominium units proposed for the northeast corner of the 6.7-acre site, along Lafayette and Linwood avenues. Vaeth noted that everything facing those streets would be three and four stories tall, like the older neighboring structures there.
What drew the most fire was a building that was not yet named, an imposing mixed-use seven- or eight-story high-rise proposed for the southeast corner of Delaware and Lancaster Avenue, which the developers want to extend as a private street for one block to Linwood.
“It’s so massive,” a woman in the audience whispered as a diagram of building shapes was screened during Vaeth’s presentation.
It also inspired the harshest reactions on the comment sheets next to images of all the buildings during a reception in the gallery’s upstairs mezzanine that followed the presentation.
“Bone ugly,” said one.
“Looks like a 19th century factory,” said another.
Even Vaeth was less than enthusiastic when an architect’s sketch of it flashed on the auditorium screen.
“That brick is dark,” he exclaimed. “We’re not thrilled with the way it’s coming across tonight. It’s going to evolve.
“We want to be conservative,” he noted. “We don’t want to be aggressive or off-putting. There will be a brick base and on top of that, it is 2014, 2015, there will be glass and metal panels on top. We promise not to use any robin’s egg blue brick.”
Vaeth noted that the entire project, including the mixed-use building, will work with the city’s new Green Code. He suggested that the current parking garage on the site might be outfitted with a canopy of solar electricity panels.
Other concerns centered on the Lancaster Avenue extension and the retail spaces in the project.
With a zoning map on the screen, Vaeth pointed out that most of the surrounding properties are zoned commercial.
He also outlined the many vehicle-slowing, pedestrian friendly features of the street design, including a traffic circle. He said it may even be closed for special occasions.
He noted that discussions are underway to bring in a full-service food market and a health and fitness center (“like the YMCA in the Northtowns”) for the mixed-use building. Vaeth told The Buffalo News last week that he hopes to have letters of intent for both of them before the end of the month.
A presentation on the environmental aspects of TM Montante Development’s plans for the site of the former Millard Fillmore Hospital at Gates Circle will be offered to the city Planning Board at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday in Room 901 of City Hall. A public hearing on the project site plan will be held at a later date.
If all proceeds according to the timeline shown Monday evening, demolition will begin next January, and construction will be completed by late 2016 or early 2017.