BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Neighbors will have a little more time to learn more about plans to open an Uncle Bob’s Storage facility inside the former Budwey’s store on Kenmore Avenue.
The city’s Planning Board decided Tuesday morning to table a vote on whether to give that project the green light until its next meeting, after the deadline for the county to submit its comments.
In the meantime, the Planning Board has directed the property owner, Joe Dash, to have another meeting with community members. That will take place in the next couple weeks.
Dash bought the former Budwey’s store from Frank Budwey in late 2013, announcing plans to open a Dash’s Market in its place. That Dash’s opened in January, 2014, but closed again in May of that year, so renovations could be completed, according to Dash. A few months later, Dash announced that a grocery store would not be reopening in that location.
The building has sat empty since last summer, while Dash worked to find another buyer, then to come up with another plan for the space, which eventually led to the proposal for a 530 unit storage facility inside the existing building that the Planning Board has been asked to consider. The Zoning Board approved the proposal in May, 2015.
However, neighbors continue to push back against the plan. “There’s a lot of frustration with this project, mainly because the community lost its local grocery store,” one neighbor, James Rozanski, said during Monday morning’s public hearing on the project.
But, Dash and his team say having a grocery store in that location is not financially viable. In fact, Frank Budwey has said he had to sell the store because he was losing money there. Now, Dash and his attorney, Jeff Palumbo, are asking community members to get on board with the proposal that’s actually on the table.
“My message to the community is to get behind the project and to embrace the fact that there’s somebody willing to spend millions of dollars in that area to revive the area,” Palumbo said.
Still, some neighbors want more. “Myself as a resident, as a biker, as someone that appreciates public transit, you know, taking that into consideration, factoring in the fact that the largest rails to trails in the region is basically on the doorstep of this project, how can you build on that infrastructure?” said Darren Cotton, a University Heights Collaborative board member.
“I don’t know whether it’s as simple as a bike repair station so people along this five mile path they know, ‘oh, we can stop here and fix our bikes’ or if it’s additional bike parking,” Cotton suggested. “This is really a gateway into the city via bicycle so I don’t know if it’s interpretive signage or public art or something that makes the building an asset to the community.”
“I think what everyone keeps forgetting is that Mr. Dash is investing another $2 million into a total project worth $5 million in an area that’s desperately in need of that type of investment,” Palumbo pointed out. “I think he should be applauded for what he’s doing. And the design of the building is exactly what we told the Collaborative it would be, so we look forward to the planning board ultimately granting us approval.”
University Heights Collaborative representatives say they will announce the next public meeting on the project on their website: http://ourheights.org/