Buffalo Rising, the city’s leading publication on architecture and development and something of a digital town square for the body politic, has erupted with criticism after the unveiling of a $75 million project being proposed by Carl Paladino’s Ellicott Development.
The project is meeting harsh opposition from the planning community for its design, scale, and mix of uses, which includes a massive parking structure. The project is likely to face organized opposition before being heard by the planning board.
“Seems like they could not decide what they wanted it to look like,” says David Steel, Chicago based architect.
The opposition is likely to force Paladino back to the drawing board. Some suggest that Paladino should approach neighborhood stakeholders earlier in the design process.
Paladino is notorious for his flagrant disregard for urban design, as evidenced by his construction of dozens of Rite Aid stores that helped to erod the spatial fabric of the city’s neighborhood commercial districts.
“The developer and his architect need to take more time to make this project better. I like the first floor retail,” concedes preservationist Michael DiPasquale, a local architect. “But the materials, massing and parking garage aren’t working. Downtown needs beautiful buildings. This design has a long way to go.”
DiPasquale has a number of concerns relating to both the project’s design and the firm’s design process: what was the community process and who gave initial input on the development and the design; why is an existing, likely historic, building being demolished?
DiPasquale is worried that the proposed materials and building massing distastefully clash with adjacent buildings, especially the Forbes Theatre.
“Compare the new UB medical School with the Conventus building next door. One is nicely detailed, with a palette of rich materials and proportions. The other is a mix of mostly dull architectural products applied to a steel frame,” he explains. “I fear the proposed Ellicot Development project will be even worse.”
Another preservationist argues that with so much parking already downtown, “it is a shame that one of the few remaining buildings would need to be demolished for this project… I’d rather see the project proposed to replace Ellicott Development’s Cyclorama building.”