Preservation Board Rejects Douglas Jemal’s Application for Richardson’s Porte Cochere Entrance | Business premises

City preservation officials have said no to developer Douglas Jemal’s plan for a porte-cochere entrance to the Richardson Hotel & Conference Center.

But that doesn’t mean the proposal is dead.

In a surprise decision that caught the developer slightly off guard, the Buffalo Preservation Board denied Douglas Development Corp.’s application. carriage porch entrance to the north entrance of the Richardson Hotel & Conference Center.

But the rejection was done in a way that allows Jemal to come back later with a revised proposal.

The panel’s vote on Thursday night — instead of continuing to file the contentious request, as Jemal wanted — was at least partially administrative in nature and doesn’t necessarily kill the project, which was in limbo even before the vote. The current underpass proposal at the Old Henry Hotel has come under heavy criticism from the preservation community, but both parties are working to address these concerns.

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On the contrary, council members felt that some sort of decision was necessary to comply with the deadlines that the Preservation Council must meet with applications. And they cited the uncertainty of ongoing negotiations between Jemal and the Preservation Board, State Historic Preservation Office and National Park Service – all of which must approve any project involving the historic Richardson-Olmsted campus and a 50-year preservation pledge. years.

“We didn’t know how long the process would take,” said Preservation Council President Gwen Howard. “So we’ve chosen to take it off the table and deny it without prejudice, so that there can be time in the process for all agencies to understand the project, review the project and give their approval.”

But it sent a clear message that council members were unhappy with the proposed size, scale and design of the covered entrance which would extend 86 feet from the building’s frontage and would rise 30 feet above the driveway. The board also said the plan created “a visual obstruction of the twin towers of the Richardson Olmsted complex” and violated federal preservation guidelines.

The panel was also hindered by the presence of a platform deck above it, surrounded by a glass railing, which creates a balcony that can be occupied.

“It was definitely a denial on the merits,” Howard said, calling it “too big, too tall, and not sympathetic” to the building’s original design.

She also said there were “inconsistencies” between the drawings and renderings submitted to the city, and even with the reality of what was already built.

“The file they submitted to us were two different things,” she said. “The drawings and the renders and what they built didn’t match each other.”

However, according to the committee’s decision, “another canopy of appropriate scale, height and materiality may well be approved under these standards and guidelines.”

Paul Millstein, executive vice president of Douglas Development and deputy chief of Jemal, said the message was received.

“It was more of a procedural thing, but I think they also wanted to make their feelings known, which they did,” he said. “By denying it, instead of filing it, it gave them a clear opportunity to let us know what their objections were and gave us a chance to refine our presentation and thoughts so that we could come back and hopefully , find common ground in the near future.”

Local officials filed the request two weeks ago, hoping to coordinate their discussions and concerns with their state and federal colleagues. “We weren’t able in this two-week period to organize this coordinated conversation,” Howard said.

“Because we don’t know the timelines, we wanted to protect the process, so it didn’t expire,” Howard added. “It was clear that what had been submitted was not going to be approved anyway.”

Six steel columns and the structure’s roof framework have already been erected at the historic site – due to poor communication and misunderstandings within the city. But further work was halted until Jemal’s team could resolve disputes with municipal, state and federal officials so the project could be officially approved. Otherwise, the city can order Jemal to remove what has already been installed.

However, Millstein insisted the company remains confident in its design and plan and intends to continue with it. Representatives from Douglas Development will meet with representatives from Howard and SHPO on Monday morning.

“We think that’s the right doorway for this project. We have a lot of experts supporting this theory, and we haven’t explained the reasons well enough, and that’s up to us,” Millstein said. “We expect to do a better job on Monday, so the rest of the groups will see the light.”

Millstein suggested that state and federal officials would have a different opinion if they came to campus to see what the structure actually looks like, not seen in a photo or rendered from an office in Albany or Washington. .

“My reaction was dramatically different once I walked around and experienced it in person, and in the context of the entire Richardson campus,” he said. . “It doesn’t obstruct the glass curtain wall that’s there at all. It gives it a sense of place. It provides an opportunity for activation. It takes the back of the building and gives it a prominent entrance.”

And, he noted, it doesn’t change the physical structure of the building, because “it’s bolted, bolted” and can be easily removed.

“We see no reason why we wouldn’t be able to continue as presented, with some improvements that we would consider minor,” he said. “The Preservation Council has been very respectful. They have been communicative. We look forward to continuing to work with them on this project and many more in the future.”

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