April 7, 2016
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Start of Construction on Project to Transform Former School Into a Mixed-Income Affordable Housing and Commercial Complex

Governor Cuomo Announces Start of Construction on Project to Transform Former School Into a Mixed-Income Affordable Housing and Commercial Complex

Long-Vacant Niagara Falls Building Will Have 61 New Low-Income and Market-Rate Apartments and 23,000-Square-Feet of Commercial Space

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced construction is underway on the $24.4 million Niagara City Lofts project that will transform the former South Junior High School into a 61-unit mixed-income, mixed-use affordable housing development. Financing for the project has been secured through New York State Homes and Community Renewal and Empire State Development.

“Providing greater access to affordable housing is a top priority of our administration and with this project we are helping more New Yorkers find a place to call home,” Governor Cuomo said. “By repurposing this building into a magnet for new living and business opportunities, we are strengthening this community and are taking another step towards creating stronger and fairer New York.”

Located at 561 Portage Road, the apartments under construction in the former school building are among the thousands of units that form the foundation of the Governor’s new, $10 billion House New York 2020 program to create or preserve 100,000 affordable units over the next five years.

“Adapting existing outdated structures for new uses has the effect of breathing new life into a community,” said HCR Commissioner James S. Rubin. “Thanks to the unwavering support of our Governor, Andrew Cuomo, the affordable homes we are creating here in Niagara City Lofts, along with thousands of square feet of new retail space, will do just that: this is a great investment and inspired development that will provide an irreplaceable affordable housing resource for years and years to come.”

“We have seen the important role affordable attractive housing has played in Buffalo’s turnaround,” said President, CEO and Commissioner of Empire State Development Howard Zemsky. “Loft style apartments are the rentals of choice for millennials looking to move back to the area. The Niagara Falls Lofts project will be an excellent magnet for bringing new businesses and people into the heart of the city.”

The South Junior High School has been vacant for more than a decade and was headed for 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. The building has suffered significant water damage and decay over years of neglect, making it both a hazard and a financial liability.

Of the 61 rental units, 51 are designated for low-income households with incomes at or below 60% of the area median and ten will be offered for rent at market-rate. When construction is complete in 2017, the three-story brick building will include a rental office, elevator, a community room with computer lab, a common laundry area, 133 parking spaces, and tenant storage and 23,000-square-feet of commercial space. Ten of the apartments will be fully accessible and adapted for people with mobility impairments and three units will be fully accessible and adapted for people with a hearing or visual impairment.

The development was funded through a combination of HCR New York State Housing Trust Fund money, and Low-Income Housing Credit Programs, ESD Restore-NY funding, NYSERDA, and Historic tax credit equity. The gross rents (rent plus utilities) will range from $475 to $831 a month.

The Niagara City Lofts development is a critical component of the ongoing neighborhood and commercial district enhancements in the City of Niagara Falls. Located in close proximity to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and the Seneca Niagara Casino, two of the city’s top three employers, 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.

The development team is CB-Emmanuel Realty and Edgemere Development; R&P Oak Hill Development is the general contractor; Silvestri Architects PC is the architect; and CRM Rental Management is the managing agent.

Benathan Upshaw, CB EMMANUEL Principal said, “We are very excited about our first development in Western New York and are particularly grateful for all of the assistance being provided to this transformative economic development project for Niagara Falls by Governor Cuomo and New York State. This development will revitalize a number of neighborhoods in and around the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and will be a catalyst for economic growth.”

State Senator Rob Ortt said, “After sitting vacant for more than a decade, it’s encouraging to know the school will be transformed into something that will help breathe new life into the City of Niagara Falls. The Niagara City Lofts project will be put back onto the tax rolls, help to spark new development and create much needed, affordable housing in the downtown core.”

Assemblyman John Ceretto said, “The Niagara City Lofts will be a magnet for bringing people to this neighborhood to enjoy living in modern new apartments and to utilize the businesses that will also be located in the building. I thank Governor Cuomo for his support of this project that transforms a long time vacant building into a multiuse development that will serve the community well for decades to come.”

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, “For the first time in its history, this building will contribute tax revenue, be privately owned and will provide a working and living space in the heart of our city. In strong partnership with the Governor, New York State Homes and Community Renewal, Empire State Development and Niagara Falls residents, CB Emanuel Reality’s Niagara City Lofts will convert an example of neglect to an example of thoughtful reuse.”

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