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City Planning Commission Approves Gateway Lofts Site Plan

The Jamestown Planning Commission has approved the site plan for the proposed Gateway Lofts project. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

After more than two years, the developers of the Gateway Lofts project have received site plan approval from the city Planning Commission.

Last week, the commission approved the site plan and also approved a negative declaration of the State Environmental Quality Review, or SEQR, process. This is a direct change from the positive declaration the commission had approved in February and in November 2018 calling for an environmental impact statement to be completed for the project.

At the center of the discussion has been the mitigation plan the developers — Southern Tier Environments For Living (STEL), Community Helping Hands and Jamestown YWCA — had proposed for adding housing units at the Gateway Center.

During last week’s Planning Commission meeting, there was no discussions on the mitigation plan that was agreed to by the project developers and city officials.

Crystal Surdyk, city development director, told The Post-Journal the mitigation plan calls for the removal of 96 bedrooms from housing units that will be demolished. She said city officials and the developers had a lot of discussion on why it was important to focus on the number of bedrooms being mitigated and not just the number of houses being demolished.

The original mitigation plan had called for the developers to fund the demolition of 21 houses. Surdyk said the developers will spend $350,000 during a three-year period on the mitigation plan.

“They’re trying to give us maximum flexibility to make decisions that are best for neighborhoods,” she said. “We want to be strategic about the way we demolish the units. We want to be thoughtful about the way we are doing it. This was the most flexible approach.”

John LaMancuso, Planning Commission member, said the targeted housing mitigation plan is a reasonable one and it has been well thought out.

“It’s a great example of a lot of different people coming together and ultimately coming to a compromise, which I think will be a victory for the city of Jamestown and the people here,” he said.

Greg Rabb, Planning commission chairman, said Gateway Lofts is probably the project he has spent the most time discussion during his tenure as the chairman.

“It’s a significantly better project now that will benefit city residents,” he said.

The Gateway Lofts proposal calls for 110 units, consisting of two, three and four bedroom apartments, to be created. Of the 110 apartments that will be created, 56 are reserved for homeless people while the remaining 54 will be leased to low- to moderate-income residents.

In 2018, STEL first came forward and proposed renovating much of the Gateway Center building, which is the former Chautauqua Hardware factory, in order to develop 79 apartment units on the second, third, and fourth floor of the building. Those units would be used by a variety of tenants, including single parent families recommended by the YWCA, those with disabilities and also those who would be referred from the county jail diversion program. The original plan to have a jail diversion program has been eradicated.

The renovation project is estimated to cost $31 million, which will be paid for by a combination of state and federal tax credits that can be sold to investors, along with community investment funds and grants.

The Planning Commission also approved a resolution that recommend the city Zoning Board of Appeals approve two area variances for the project that will be reviewed today. One variance is regarding the number of proposed parking spaces and the other is regarding proposed automotive use setbacks. The zoning board meeting will take place at 5 p.m. and will be streamed live on the city’s website — jamestownny.gov.

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