Public School to Become Affordable Housing and Community Hub
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a $14.7 million project to transform the vacant former City of Buffalo public School 77 into a community hub with 30 affordable apartments for seniors, office space, community space, a community recreational gymnasium, and an auditorium for a local theatre company. The state is partnering on this Better Buffalo Fund project with PUSH Buffalo, a local, nationally recognized community based non-profit, and its housing development entity, Buffalo Neighborhood Stabilization Company, Inc. The BBF is a $40 million Buffalo Billion initiative dedicated to projects that encourage density and growth along transportation corridors and revitalize neighborhood commercial districts, encouraging alternative transportation and walkability.
"The transformation of this abandoned property into a vibrant community hub will help strengthen this community, provide much needed affordable housing for seniors and further spur Buffalo’s economy," Governor Cuomo said. "Projects like this are making neighborhoods throughout the city of Buffalo more affordable and attractive, offering services and opportunities that communities need to thrive for years to come."
Through a neighborhood planning process, community members chose to include various uses of the new facility. The first floor of the building will house office space for PUSH and Peace of the City, a local organization that helps develop youth into entrepreneurs. There will be community space for programming, a refurbished gym, and the auditorium will transform into the new home for Ujima Theatre Company, an organization that has been operating in Buffalo for more than 20 years.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, "The Better Buffalo Fund is driving the city's renaissance by reclaiming vacant and abandoned properties and breathing new life into our neighborhoods. Through the partnership of PUSH Buffalo and New York State Homes and Community Renewal, School 77 will once again be a vibrant place of life, learning and opportunity. I congratulate all involved on making this $15 million investment in our future possible."
Amenities include a community room with kitchen, outside seating area, laundry, and a playground. The building will also have energy efficient and green features such as community solar.
Financing for the development includes $1.6 million from Empire State Development’s Better Buffalo Fund; as well as $1.75 million in Community Investment Fund awards, $630,000 in Low Income Housing Tax Credits and $200,000 in Housing Trust Fund dollars, all from NYS Homes and Community Renewal. The project also received $30,000 from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, $4.23 million in Federal Historic Tax Credit Equity and $460,000 in City of Buffalo HOME Funds.
Congressman Brian Higgins said, "This creative restoration project, under the leadership of PUSH Buffalo, will transform this former school into a living place of community once again. It is also the latest example of the critically important role federal HOME funding and tax credits play in reimagining historic structures to meet the needs of today and rebuilding our neighborhoods."
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "The new School 77 will be transformative for Buffalo's West Side. The Better Buffalo Fund is helping to ensure the New Buffalo reaches all neighborhoods in the City of Buffalo. We are fortunate to have PUSH Buffalo in our community, and this latest collaboration with HCR is a prime example of the outstanding work that they do."
Mayor Byron W. Brown said, "This is yet another example of the positive impact of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Better Buffalo Fund, which is improving neighborhoods across the City of Buffalo. Since 2015 when the Better Buffalo Fund was established as part of the Governor’s Buffalo Billion program, a total of $20.7 million has been awarded to 35 projects across our City. Development of affordable and mixed income housing projects is something my Administration has aggressively worked for over the last 11 years, and to date the Better Buffalo Fund has provided funds to assist in the creation of 450 new residential units, the majority of which are affordable housing."
Councilman David A. Rivera said, "I am thrilled this day has finally come. 4 years ago I met with PUSH community members to discuss how we could save School 77 as the community resource it had been for many years. It was vital that this building remain open and for use by the community. Amidst all the new developments on the West Side and in Buffalo, it's important we develop not just to bring new people into Buffalo, but to bring improvements for those that have lived in these neighborhoods for decades and are raising the next generation in the same neighborhood. And that is exactly what the Better Buffalo Fund has done for Buffalo, bringing improvements at the neighborhood level. I congratulate PUSH Buffalo on this enormous achievement and thank PUSH for its commitment to bringing to the community what the community wants. I thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment to Buffalo and bringing innovative solutions for how to stimulate economy and growth on the neighborhood scale. I thank Mayor Brown and his administration for working with my office and PUSH to transfer this property for this important development. And I look forward celebrating the first basketball game in the gym, and the first Ujima and Peace of the City productions in the auditorium."
Howard Zemsky, President, CEO & Commissioner of ESD said, "The Better Buffalo Fund is making our communities more vibrant by supporting mixed-use developments that promote high-density and build upon Buffalo’s diverse urban fabric. The School 77 project embodies our smart growth principles and is an excellent example of how repurposing historic buildings can help to revitalize a neighborhood while creating an environment that is more attractive to private investment."
RuthAnne Visnauskas, Commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal said, "I commend PUSH Buffalo and all of the partners who are making this wonderful historic rehab possible. School 77 will allow seniors to live in a comfortable, affordable homes and stay engaged in their community. This development is a great example of Governor Cuomo’s efforts to invest in New York’s cities to create strong, vital neighborhoods with more opportunities. HCR is proud to be part of School 77’s rebirth."
John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA said, "This project shows how the state is working with local communities to provide clean, comfortable, and affordable housing. Local residents and businesses gain, as do all New Yorkers as we achieve Governor Cuomo’s strategy to deliver an energy system that is cleaner, more affordable and more resilient."
Rahwa Ghirmatzion, deputy director PUSH Buffalo said, "We're very excited not only about the project, but also about the process of transformation which engaged community residents over a two year period. The community wanted affordable housing for seniors and for the building to be a real community hub, and that is the development plan we’ve created."