Better Buffalo Fund Project Repurposes Long Vacant Public School
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the ground breaking of The Lofts at University Heights in downtown Buffalo. The $16 million Better Buffalo Fund project will repurpose a vacant 73,000-square-foot public school building into 44 loft apartments. The Lofts will be available to students and employees at the University at Buffalo and residents working in the city’s downtown or employed at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
“Buffalo is in the midst of a true revival as abandoned buildings continue to be revitalized to accommodate the city’s growing population,” Governor Cuomo said. “The Lofts at University Heights will add to this momentum by creating construction jobs and helping to improve the city’s neighborhoods with quality housing for the residents of Buffalo.”
"The Lofts at University Heights are a symbol of Buffalo’s renaissance at the neighborhood level, which is just as critical to our economic success as large-scale industrial projects,” said Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, who attended the groundbreaking event. “Through the Buffalo Billion and the Better Buffalo Fund, Governor Cuomo has provided the means to preserve valuable, often historic properties and give them new life in the 21st Century. I'm pleased to take part in today’s groundbreaking and in the ongoing transformation of the city I’m proud to call home.”
Vacant for nearly a decade, the former Buffalo public school will be transformed into desirable housing units with easy access to public transportation. The Lofts, located at 91 Lisbon Avenue, will include a mix of one-and two-bedroom loft-style units, including two two-floor units, and a small community room for tenants. There will also be 59 parking spaces on the 2.08-acre site.
“Vacant, deteriorating buildings can take a real toll on a neighborhood,” said Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky. “Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership and the Better Buffalo fund we’re now making strategic investments in projects like The Loft at University Heights and creating mixed-income housing that contributes to strong local economies.”
The Better Buffalo Fund (BBF) is a $30 million Buffalo Billion initiative dedicated to projects that encourage growth along transportation corridors and revitalize neighborhood commercial districts. The project received a $2 million BBF Loan for costs related to construction and renovation of the school.
New York State Homes and Community Renewal awarded $7.9 Million in Tax Exempt Bonds, approximately $430,000 in annual federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, $200,000 State Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and nearly $1.6 million in Housing Trust Fund New Construction Capital Funds for the project.
James S. Rubin, Commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal said, “The Lofts at University Heights turns a long-vacant school building into an asset for residents and the entire community to enjoy. Governor Cuomo is dedicated to investing state resources in affordable homes that repurpose existing buildings, connect people with businesses, employment, and transportation—and improve overall quality of life.”
In addition, the adaptive reuse and construction of The Lofts at University Heights is set to receive Federal and NYS Historic Tax Credits, which are administered by the National Park Service in conjunction with the NYS Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation. In 2013, the Governor signed significant improvements to the NYS Historic Tax Credit into law, which has become one of the state’s leading development tools for the rehabilitation of vacant or underutilized historic buildings. From October 2013 to October 2015, the historic tax credit programs have resulted in investments of over $2.8 billion in New York State.
The City of Buffalo helped secure an additional $2 million through the Better Buffalo Fund and authorized the allocation of $1.2 million from the City of Buffalo HOME Investment Partnership program in support of the affordable housing project.
“With the support of Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion, we are continuing to see progress in our city’s resurgence by revitalizing a neighborhood through the reuse of a long vacant building—this time in a neighborhood close to the University at Buffalo’s Main Street Campus,” said Satish K. Tripathi, Western New York Regional Economic Development Council (WNYREDC) Co-Chair and University at Buffalo President. “This project aligns well with the WNYREDC’s strategic vision as it encourages reinvestment in a way that creates sustainable, long-term growth in the region through the development of new, desirable housing with easy access to public transportation for its tenants.”
“The Better Buffalo Fund makes targeted investments in order to revitalize strong neighborhood centers,” said Jeff Belt, Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair and President of SolEpoxy. “The completion of this project will result in an improvement of the overall quality of life in the neighborhood.”
“The Lofts at University Heights will be a transformative project for the University District,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “What was once a symbol of decline and neglect will be transformed into an anchor of a thriving neighborhood. I want to thank all who are involved, including CB-Emmanuel Realty, Barnes Real Estate Corp, and Governor Andrew Cuomo for helping us bring today’s groundbreaking to fruition.”
"This project will be a true game changer for the University District," said Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples- Stokes. "I look forward to welcoming 44 new families to the neighborhood thanks to Governor Cuomo's Better Buffalo fund."
“The Lofts at University Heights is another example of the important development that is taking place in every section of our city,” said Mayor Byron Brown. “I thank Governor Andrew Cuomo for delivering on his commitment to help us continue to expand affordable housing opportunities in Buffalo, while repurposing vacant buildings and returning them to a productive neighborhood use.”
Empire State Development administers the BBF grant and revolving loan fund for Transit Oriented Development projects that emphasize growth within existing corridors and encourage alternative transportation and walkability. Up to $2 million in gap financing is available for projects that promote housing, employment and retail development within a quarter mile walking distance of Buffalo transit stops on Bailey Avenue, Grant Street, Main Street, Niagara Street and Utica Street corridors. To learn more about the Better Buffalo Fund, visit: www.esd.ny.gov/BusinessPrograms/BetterBuffaloFund.html.