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The Gentry Are Coming! The Gentry Are Coming!

After Monday night’s meeting about the development of 905 Elmwood Avenue I am left with one question: What is the future vision for the Elmwood Village and does include gentrification?

I have owned a home in the EV for 16 years. I am increasingly encouraged about Buffalo’s re-emergence as both a viable and livable city. Over the last 10 or so years I have welcomed the opening of new restaurants, businesses, and services in my neighborhood. However, one “mixed-use development” after another in recent years has left me wondering, “what am I getting out of the deal?” What I am getting includes: traffic jams to go three blocks (between Delavan and Auburn), parking further and further away from my home (which does not feature a driveway), less diversity as few young people and people of color can afford homes in what was once an affordable neighborhood, and more noise in general. It has become clear that Buffalo’s business community is seeking to meet their needs over those of its residents and 905 is yet another example.

Regarding 905 Elmwood:

905 has no plan to match the number of expected new residents to its parking capacity. People who can afford to pay $1800 for rent also drive cars. Although it will offer some parking for its residents, 905 Elmwood will add to the parking problems that currently exist in the neighborhood. Private parking does not add to my neighborhood, but makes parking more difficult to find for me and my household members. We don’t need an expensive parking study to tell City Hall that parking is a problem and businesses are the source of it.

905 Elmwood will create a density issue in this census block. Currently that census block [Block Group 2, Census Tract 63.02] is a low density area with 10,359 persons per square mile. Although it seems small, 22+ units on the corner of Elmwood and Delavan will significantly increase population density in the area leading to the high-density problems experienced by residents in nearby high density tracts (mostly south of this location and on the west side of Elmwood Avenue). The impending Green Code’s use of “mixed-use” high-density buildings is attempting to push “high density” living into currently low density areas, changing the character, feel, sound, and look of the Elmwood Village. Allowing 905 Elmwood variances to current codes, or allowing them to adhere to the Green Code will only invite high-density (4+ story) structures into neighborhoods that currently contain three-story homes and two-story neighborhood businesses.

Beyond human over-occupancy, 50 foot structures like 905 Elmwood will block both light and sky and benefit terrace-owner’s views to the detriment of current home-dwellers quality of life. The current rendering of 905 Elmwood is not only unattractive, but darkens the landscape and takes away from the character of the EV, whose structures date back to the Pan-American Exposition. 905 Elmwood must make some attempt to emulate the historical architecture of the neighborhood and pay even nominal homage to the architectural heritage of Buffalo.

Finally, higher rents (starting at $1800 per unit) serve to increase property values, but not quality of life, nor access to decent housing. In the same census tract, 100% of the 262 apartments available in 2012, rented for less than $2000 and 87% of apartments rented for less than $1500 per month (Data from the American Community Survey). Although there is nothing wrong with people who can pay $1800 a month for rent in Buffalo, there certainly is something wrong with a shrinking pool of rentals that are actually affordable for 87% of the population. In other towns, this trend would be called “gentrification.” Who would have thought that would happen to little ol’ Buffalo?

- Julie Carter, Buffalo

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