The latest proposals introduce a number of changes

A proposed view of the new riverfront public access area in front of the Radisson complex. (ELEV8 architecture rendering)

Sat, 29.10.2022 07:00 a.m

Grand Island Planning Board for review

By Terry Duffy

editor-in-chief

Progress continues towards housing on the Radisson Hotel property on Whitehaven and East River streets. A number of procedural steps were taken at last month’s Grand Island City Council meeting, and further action is expected at the November planning committee meeting.

These actions follow the release of an updated site plan submitted to the city in mid-September by developers Michael J. Conroe, AIA LEED AP, of Orchard Parks ELEV8 Architecture, and Justin B. Earl of JB Earl Co. of Salt Lake City. The plan calls for a number of changes to the 10-acre property, including public access for residents from the historic ferry dock on the southwest to the River Oaks Marina property on the northeast. Proposed features include construction of a riverside kayak launch site with dedicated parking for residents nearby; improvements to the existing docks; a dog park; the addition of a gazebo in front of the decking area and the placement of picnic tables and benches throughout the public waterfront area. Additionally, there could be two levels of outdoor seating in front of the restaurant, removing the existing tennis courts on the north end and converting them to pickleball courts. The indoor and outdoor pool areas would continue to be used.

“These plans include a nearly 2-acre public easement and the introduction of a waterfront park for city dwellers as part of our contribution to zoning,” said Conroe.

The updates also show a reconfiguration of the hotel’s 263 rooms into six floors with rental units in a wing and four floors with monthly and short-term nightly rental units spread across the hotel’s restaurant, front of the pool area, patio and front lawn .

The plan is currently awaiting further review and possible changes by the planning committee.

At the October 3 City Council meeting, the Council reviewed the State Environmental Quality Assessment (SEQRA) documents and offered a negative statement and approval of the planned unit development status for the project. With a 4-0 approval from the PDD, the board deemed the project in line with the city’s overall plan. Areas of consistency included:

• The development of a public walkway and parkland that will provide better access to the banks of the Niagara River;

• The PUD is compatible with existing development in the area and does not unduly burden existing urban infrastructure or services;

• The current hotel site has sufficient water, sewage, rainwater, electricity, telephone, freeway access, parking and charging facilities for the proposed uses. In addition, internal parking lots and roads were found to be adequate for the expected uses of the PDD. The property provides ample access for fire equipment, police and other emergency vehicles.

In reviewing the conceptual plan, the City Council considered “the factors set forth in Section 407-121(a) of the Town Zoning Code, including proposed residential uses and their locations, density, location of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, location and extent of utility systems and public and private open spaces.”

“The proposed density is consistent with the express desire for higher density residential development for this area in the comprehensive plan,” the board said. “The concept plan is hereby approved as consistent with the health, safety, morals and general welfare of the community.”

“We don’t want to expand the footprint,” Conroe said of the recent proposals. “Everything we do will be done within the…existing footprint.”

He said a final price for the project is still in the works.

In a recent Dispatch interview, Supervisor John Whitney called the latest proposals “a tremendous improvement” for the Whitehaven-East River neighborhood.

The Grand Island Planning Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday, November 7 at City Hall on the Radisson issue. The session is public.

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