Neighbors object to plans for a Panera Bread franchise
Aug 01, 2012 (Menafn - The Buffalo News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --A proposal for a bakery/cafe to take over space now occupied by a movie rental business in the Elmwood Village came under fire Tuesday morning in a public hearing before the Buffalo Planning Board.
Panera Bread has submitted plans to convert the Blockbuster at 765 Elmwood Ave. But Planning Board action on the related applications was tabled until the September meeting, because an outdoor permit request sign hadn't been posted, as required.
That Blockbuster store is among three in the area still in business, operating under bankruptcy protection. Blockbuster hasn't announced plans to close or relocate the Elmwood store, even as its landlord, Benchmark Group, negotiates a lease with Panera.
Notices about the proposal and its potential negative impacts were distributed at the store, urging people to contact their Common Council representative and attend Tuesday's hearing.
"There is no change to the footprint of the building," Andrew Terragnoli, a civil engineer working on the proposal, said Tuesday. The main entrance would be off the parking lot, which would be repaved and striped. There also would be a series of telescoping glass doors along Elmwood Avenue to access a future sidewalk dining area.
Additional plans include painting the building's exterior, adding fabric awnings and gooseneck lights, and landscaping.
"While I am not in favor of national chains ... I don't deny their right to be on Elmwood Avenue," said Daniel Sack of Lancaster Avenue. "It is a sign of success of the Elmwood Village, I would say."
Sack said the darkly tinted glass doors depicted on the plans don't meet Elmwood Village design standards for transparent glazing. And he was critical about the lack of additional detail. "I would encourage them to come up with a much better design," Sack said.
A woman who said she was a longtime resident of Elmwood Village objected on other grounds.
"One of the main reasons is Panera is a huge, huge chain," she said. She said she also objects because Panera would displace Blockbuster.
Becky Gandour, interim director of the Elmwood Village Association, noted that landscaping changes in the proposal are the result of conversations with Panera, which she said "has been reaching out to the community and working with us."
Gandour also said she would like to see the Elmwood Village design standards strictly enforced.
"We have a real problem with parking," said Tom Jendrowski of Ashland Avenue, who has neither a driveway nor a garage. Plans by Benchmark Group for developing property across from the proposed Panera site would further diminish parking.
"I think it would be probably more convenient ... if it was located down around where Children's Hospital is," Jendrowski said.
In other business, Women & Children's Hospital received approval for its proposed new facility on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Last week, the city's Zoning Board of Appeals approved a height variance for the planned 12-story structure. Hospital officials would like to open by December 2015.
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