UB Heights residents angry over plans to turn former supermarket into self-storage

University Heights Collaborative hosts meeting to brainstorm alternatives

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University Heights residents could soon have a place for self-storage, but some residents would rather have their grocery store back.

Joe Dash, owner of Dash’s Market, purchased Budwey’s Market on Kenmore Avenue from Frank Budwey in November 2013. Dash closed the supermarket for renovations in May 2014, but later announced that the site may not reopen as a grocery store, but as a self-storage unit.

“Everyone is disappointed that there will not be a supermarket,” said Mickey Vertino, University Heights Collaborative president. “We need to bring [that] information to Joe Dash and the community.”

The University Heights Collaborative, a non-profit community based organization, held a meeting at the Gloria J. Parks Community Center Tuesday night for residents to discuss alternatives for Dash’s current plan to turn the former grocery store site to a self-storage unit.

A petition is currently circulating against the supermarket reopening as a storage unit. The University Heights Collaborative is serving as a facilitator for the petition, allowing residents to voice their concerns, but is not taking a side on the issue.

Many residents want a supermarket at the Kenmore Avenue location because it is within walking distance of their homes, and are concerned a storage unit would attract crime and detract other businesses from opening in the area.

“There is urban decay along Kenmore and Englewood – a storage facility would not improve that area,” said Joe Schmidbauer, a University Heights Collaborative member. “Storage facilities can become a place for black market transactions or a drop site.”

Schmidbauer said Dash made a bad investment when purchasing the Budwey’s location.

Dash told Heights residents in November that the location cannot sustain a grocery store, in part because of road construction that will be occurring on Kenmore Avenue throughout this year and next year. He also said he has not received any offers from buyers looking to use the site as a grocery store.

Dash’s Market has two other locations, on Hertel Avenue and Colvin Boulevard, both less than two miles from the Kenmore site. When Dash purchased the Budwey’s building, some residents originally feared the Hertel location would be closed.

Around the time the Kenmore location closed for renovations in May, Dash said that the Hertel location would never close. Dash originally wanted to put up to $4 million worth of renovations into the Kenmore Avenue building and surrounding space.

After Dash announced in July that the site might not reopen as a grocery store, Heights residents held a meeting with Dash and his lawyer in November to discuss the fate of the old Budwey’s site.

According to the general minutes of the meeting, Dash told community members he wants turn the building into storage and build additional outdoor storage facilities. He also wanted to hear public input on the project.

Dash did not attend Tuesday night’s meeting, but did meet with University Heights Collaborative members on Feb. 3 to discuss their concerns. Darren Cotton, University Heights Collaborative vice president, said that Dash argued that at this time the only commercially viable use for the land is storage.

Members of the community offered alternative ideas for the site instead of a storage unit Tuesday night. Residents suggested only developing part of the land, pursuing ideas for other grocery stores to go there or giving a parcel of land to the community for gardening or farming.

Cotton recorded the ideas and plans to compile them into a document to be sent to Dash’s representatives.

Dash’s proposed plan to make the site a self-storage unit would have to be approved by the Buffalo Common Council.

The University Heights Collaborative is currently seeking information on the existing zoning codes for the area. If the lot is zoned as a community business district, the Buffalo Common Council would not permit a self-storage site and Dash would be required to have a zoning variance to build. If the site is zoned as retail strip, Dash would not be required to have a zoning variance and a self-storage would be permitted.

Michaela Schmidbauer, the University Heights Collaborative secretary, said residents need to be brought together against this storage facility.

“We need to come together and continue a strong voice of we do not want a storage facility. Period,” Schmidbauer said.

The Buffalo Common Council will have a public hearing on Feb. 24 at 1 p.m.
Dash’s representatives did not return the request for comment by the time of press.

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