Restaurant expansion, historic preservation at odds in Williamsville | Buffalo Political News

The owner of a popular Williamsville restaurant has said it could close by January if a village preservation committee does not approve its expansion plan.

Joel Schreck, the owner of Share Kitchen & Bar Room on Main Street, wants to enclose outdoor tables along one side of the restaurant and fit new patio seating on the roof of this addition.

But some members of the Village Historic Preservation Commission have expressed concerns about the project’s effect on the two-story building, a local historic landmark, and views of the nearby Williamsville Watermill. So far, they have refused to endorse the proposal.

The debate over Share’s expansion unfolded on social media, in the pages of the weekly Amherst Bee and at the last village board meeting.

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It’s the latest example of the age-old tension between those who want to do everything to encourage small business in Williamsville and those who don’t want it to come at the expense of the village’s historic character.

“In putting in the one-story addition, I’m not sure it’s in the best interest of the historic integrity of the buildings,” said Mary Lowther, a Williamsville administrator who previously served as mayor and commission chair. . “I think Joel has a really successful business, but I think he’s kind of outgrown that footprint.”

Schreck, who has collected hundreds of signatures on petitions in favor of its expansion, insists that if the village rejects the project, it will likely close this winter.

“It’s actually a necessity for us to have it for our long-term survival,” he said.

A longtime village resident who attended Williamsville schools, Schreck opened Share in March 2016 at the corner of Main and East Spring streets in a space that previously housed Sweet Jenny’s, Coffee Culture Café & Eatery, and BillyBar. Buffalo News restaurant critic Andrew Galarneau said in 2021 that Share boasted “the most interesting menu in the Village of Williamsville in ages.”

The dinner-only restaurant near Glen Park can serve up to 70 diners indoors as well as 25 to 28 outdoor seats used primarily from early June through early September, Schreck said.

For years Schreck has tried to extend this outdoor dining season. In 2017, he submitted plans to build a metal canopy along East Spring, from which he would drape plastic sheeting to allow comfortable use of outdoor tables in the spring and fall.

The plan stalled at the Historic Preservation Commission without receiving a positive or negative vote, Schreck said. He presented a similar proposal in late 2019 or early 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic upended that idea.

Schreck said the challenges he’s faced over the past two years made it clear he needed the revenue that would come from using outdoor seating year-round.

According to its latest plan, Share would build a one-story addition along East Spring Street, making the roughly 25 outdoor seats a permanent part of the dining area and adding a similar number of seats on a new rooftop patio.

Schreck and his architect, Dave Sutton, said the changes would match the character of the structure, which was built in the late 1800s and restored and updated over the years, most recently for Coffee Culture more ten years old. It was named a local village landmark in 2014, requiring review by the addition commission.

Sutton and Schreck presented the proposal at the June 28 Historic Preservation Commission meeting. Members asked lots of questions about the design of the project, what materials would be used, how customers would access the new rooftop patio, and whether expanding the restaurant 10 feet would interfere with views of the historic mill that overlooks the street. Hand.

Members did not vote on the plan that evening but, according to the minutes of the meeting, had an overall favorable view of the proposal.

Commission members at the July 26 meeting raised more concerns about the project, with new chair Kate Waterman-Kulpa – she filling a vacancy on the commission after Lowther was elected to the village council – claiming it is a significant addition to a historic building, according to the minutes of that meeting.

Waterman-Kulpa later said she didn’t like the addition, according to the minutes, while member Jim Tammaro said he was ready to vote “yes” that night.

Annoyed that the project had stalled, Schreck launched an online petition – it had 1,285 signatures as of Saturday morning – and collected door-to-door signatures in the village to show he had public support.

“I think my frustration is more with the authority of the Village Historic Preservation Commission and the lack of accountability,” he said.

Schreck and Sutton were back before the commission on August 23. The members again debated the effect of the expansion on how someone perceives the restaurant building and the nearby factory.

Only five of the seven members of the commission attended the meeting. First, a motion to deny the application failed to gain the required four votes. Then, a request to approve an opportunity certificate failed for the same reason.

The committee voted to put the project back on the agenda for the September 27 meeting.

Mayor Deb Rogers said the Waterman-Kulpa-led commission she clashed with is too rigid and unwilling to work with economic operators. Waterman-Kulpa declined to comment.

“I have no idea why this is such a controversial issue,” Rogers said. “For me it’s, you know, a non-issue, but it’s becoming an issue.”

Lowther said the commission is doing its best to accommodate requests from Main Street businesses.

In this case, however, she encouraged Schreck to consider moving to another, larger location in Williamsville. She noted that Nest in the Village now crosses Main Street.

“I want Joel to succeed,” Lowther said. “But, like I said, other companies that have outgrown their space are moving to a different space.”

Schreck said he couldn’t find another equally suitable site for his restaurant, and furthermore he said the village needed to remember that the history of its commercial buildings was still being written.

“We’re trying to make history for the future here too,” he said. “That’s not all that happened, you know, 100 years ago.”

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