Transformation of Former Niagara Falls School Saves Taxpayer Dollars
School Renovated to Offer 61 New, Affordable Apartments and 20,000-Square-Feet of Commercial Space
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the grand opening of Niagara City Lofts, a $24.4 million project that transformed the former South Junior High School into a 61-unit mixed-income housing development. In addition to affordable housing, approximately 20,000 square-feet of commercial space is available for local businesses and the community. Located at 561 Portage Road, the complex is part of the Governor's unprecedented commitment to housing and community revitalization, which includes $20 billion to build or preserve 100,000 units of affordable, and 6,000 units of supportive housing across the State.
"New York is committed to revitalizing blighted buildings in communities across the state, and with this latest investment in the City of Niagara Falls, the former junior high school will offer affordable living space for some of our most vulnerable residents," Governor Cuomo said. "The new mixed-use development not only offers quality homes for New Yorkers, it provides opportunities for businesses to expand and grow, as we support the growth of the Niagara community for generations to come."
The South Junior High School, which had been vacant for more than a decade, was deemed a public hazard and would have required a taxpayer funded demolition, estimated at $1.2 million dollars. As a former school, the property was 100 percent exempt from city, county and school district taxes, making it both a hazard and a financial liability. The Niagara City Lofts project turned the once blighted historic building into a community asset, providing quality homes and adding to the Niagara Falls economy.
Of the 61 rental units offered at Niagara City Lofts, 51 are designated for households with incomes at or below 60 percent of the area median and 10 will be offered for rent at market-rate. In addition to housing, the three-story brick building includes a rental office, elevator, a community room with computer lab, fitness and laundry facilities, parking, a playground, and tenant storage. Ten of the apartments are fully accessible and adapted for people with mobility impairments and three units are fully accessible and adapted for people with a hearing or visual impairment.
Niagara City Lofts also includes, Miss Tammi's Dance Studio, a storage facility availability to the public for rent, and a restored auditorium to be utilized by Miss Tammi's and available to be rented for community meetings and events. Approximately 1,000 square-feet is currently available to rent.
Funding for Niagara City Lofts included more than $6 million in financing and Low Income Housing Tax Credits through HCR; $5 million in ESD Restore-NY funding; approximately $7 million in Federal and New York State Historic Tax Credit Equity; and $123,000 from NYSERDA. The gross rents (rent plus utilities) will range from $475 to $831 a month.
Niagara City Lofts is a critical component of the ongoing neighborhood and commercial district enhancements in the City of Niagara Falls. The project will provide newly renovated workforce housing. In addition, the site is located directly next to the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center and within two miles of the downtown tourism district. Niagara City Lofts joins a number of other new developments including the Walnut Avenue Homes, providing affordable housing for families and the formerly homeless in Niagara Falls. More information is available here.
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "The 61 apartments and commercial space that make up Niagara City Lofts will add to the vibrancy of the city for years to come. This is an example of Governor Cuomo's commitment to making New York's downtowns even better places to live and work. Thank you to our partners at CB Emmanuel and Edgemere Development for making this transformative development possible."
"The transformation of this long vacant building into affordable housing will help breathe new life into the heart of Niagara Falls," said President, CEO and Commissioner of Empire State Development Howard Zemsky. "The Niagara City Lofts will be a magnet for bringing people to neighborhoods in and around the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and will help spark additional development in the area."
The South Junior High was listed on the National Register of Historic Places to prepare for its utilization of the federal and New York State Historic Tax Credit programs," said Rose Harvey, Commissioner of New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. "The combination of resources from Parks and NYS Homes and Community Renewal has emerged as a signature development model that has helped revitalize vacant and underutilized historic properties throughout the state, while offering new and exciting housing opportunities in landmarks buildings that have special meaning to New Yorkers."
Congressman Brian Higgins said, "Niagara City Lofts represents the largest project, currently underway in Niagara Falls, to receive federal and state Historic Tax Credits - $10 million combined. Without these credits, projects like the conversion of South Junior High, that take Western New York's historic structures and make them new again, would not be feasible. This project is the latest demonstration of a new energy in the City of Niagara Falls as well as an urgent reminder of the importance of preserving federal Historic Tax Credits, currently at risk of elimination."
State Senator Rob Ortt said, "The Niagara City Lofts are a welcome addition to the Falls. Through innovative re-use of an existing site, we're putting a valuable property back on the tax rolls while creating essential residential options."
Assemblyman Angelo Morinello said, "Niagara City Lofts offers quality affordable housing and adds to the vibrancy and ongoing revitalization of Niagara Falls."
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, "Niagara City Lofts is the result of strong partnerships and communication. The State of New York, under Governor Cuomo's leadership, provided the assistance needed to reimagine a long vacant, blighted building. CB Emmanuel executed an impressive renovation, working together with the City of Niagara Falls and local residents. Instead of being headed for a costly demolition, the former South Junior is now the flagship for a residential neighborhood that has experienced over $40 million of investment over the past five years."
Benathan Upshaw, CB EMMANUEL Principal said, "CB Emmanuel is proud to have been given the opportunity to return this community asset back to the City of Niagara Falls. Niagara City Lofts demonstrates the importance of public private partnerships in revitalizing neighborhoods."
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