Queen City Landing plans on hold as public opposition mounts

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–A plan to construct a high rise apartment building along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor met some stiff resistance in a hearing at City Hall, Tuesday.

Despite concessions by developers of Queen City Landing to get the project approved, critics insist the project is out of place.

Developer Gerald Buchheit was initially approved for a 23-story tower that is the main feature of Queen City Landing, but lawsuits and regulations led to downsizing the building from 23 to 20 floors.

Buchheit is also trying to re-classify the type of structure he wants to build, but by the end of the hearing, none of the dozen-plus public speakers would support the project–the only private development along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.

Executive Director Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, of the Partnership for the Public Good, said the project is wrong for the city’s lakefront, “Buffalo’s comprehensive plan states that it is driven by three principles: fix the basics and build on assets; target sustainability, and employ smart growth. This plan violates all three of those principles.”

Queen City Landing is planned for the former Freezer Queen site, and developers have made a number of changes–shrinking the footprint of the building and keeping more green space–to adhere to the city’s Green Code.

Due to zoning and other regulations, developers are promoting the project as a planned-unit development, or PUD.

Margaux Valenti, staff attorney for Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, also said Queen City Landing is not going to work, “First, the project does not actually meet the criteria to be a planned-unit development, and second, the type of waiver that is being requested of the Common Council is not a waiver that the Council can grant under the Green Code.”

The public hearing was held by the Council’s Legislative Committee and councilmembers indicated Buchheit might have to start all over with some regulatory approvals, so they left the hearing open for another day.

Buchheit spokesman Phil Pantano said Buchheit is determined to get Queen City Landing done, “We have submitted that application. We have been requested to provide some additional information, which we will, and we will ride the process out.”

Pantano pointed out, Buchheit has already invested millions of dollars into the project, for demolishing the old Freezer Queen plant and shoring up the property on Fuhrmann Boulevard. Legal costs, and the architectural plans have also added to his expenses.

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