Adaptive reuse turns vacant former Buffalo hospital into $15 million affordable housing to revitalize neighborhood near downtown

On July 28, 2023, a $15.3 million adaptive reuse project to convert a former hospital building into 44 affordable and supportive homes for people aged 62 and older was completed in Buffalo, New York.

Folwell Apartments is part of a larger redevelopment of the historic eight-acre Women and Children’s Hospital intended to revitalize Buffalo’s Elmwood Village neighborhood. 

New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “The Folwell Apartments project shows how historic preservation can revitalize cities like Buffalo. The Historic Tax Credit program helps attract investment in underutilized structures, expand affordable housing, and promote sustainability.

The Folwell Apartments was redeveloped through the adaptive reuse of a former hospital building, which served as the maternity ward for the Women and Children’s Hospital and closed in 2017.

City of Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said, “Since 2006, I’ve strategically committed millions of dollars to affordable housing projects throughout the city. That investment has leveraged $695 million in development, creating thousands of new housing units. We’re building on that progress with the completion of the Folwell Apartments. I would like to thank Governor Kathy Hochul and Homes and Community Renewal for their partnership in my affordable housing mission for our great city. We’ve had a longstanding relationship with People Inc. Together we’ve partnered on affordable housing initiatives such as the Jefferson Apartments, Linwood Lafayette Manor Senior Apartments, and Mount Olive Manor. I’m honored to continue our collaboration and to see yet another affordable housing initiative flourish.

The comprehensive redevelopment of the hospital site and campus will ultimately include market-rate apartments and for-sale condominiums in addition to commercial and other community spaces.

New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, “Safe, affordable housing is a social determinant of health. I am very thankful that Governor Hochul has such a strong commitment to housing. Providing funding for Folwell Apartments is a tangible example that will allow residents to age in place safely with access to the community services they need and critical local social connections.

Located near Buffalo’s downtown, the campus is within walking distance of many amenities and is accessible by public transportation.

Representative Brian Higgins said, “Quality, inclusive, and affordable housing is often hard to come by, especially for seniors, in Western New York and across the country,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “Thanks to state and federal funding we are making important progress in addressing this challenge, with this latest project in the heart of Buffalo’s Elmwood Village. The former Children’s Hospital site holds a special place in the hearts of Western New York families and thanks to the work of People Inc. the Folwell apartments create a new opportunity to build community in this special neighborhood.”

All apartments located at Folwell are affordable to seniors with incomes at or below 60 percent of the Area Median Income.

Councilmember David Rivera said, “I am so pleased to see more affordable housing; especially in a neighborhood as strong as the Elmwood Village.”

There are seven apartments reserved for seniors in need of supportive services to live independently. These residents will have access to rental subsidies and services funded through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative and administered by the New York State Department of Health.

In keeping with the site’s historic significance, much of the building’s exterior remained undisturbed. In addition to new windows, construction incorporated energy efficiency and green building features that comply with both New York State Energy and Research Development Authority and Enterprise Green Communities 2020 standards.

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “NYSERDA takes great pleasure in seeing this project reach completion and begin offering some of Buffalo’s most vulnerable residents additional affordable housing that features energy star appliances, high-performance space conditioning equipment, windows and insulation. Projects like Folwell Apartments are showing that adaptive reuse buildings can be beautiful places to live, while also supporting Governor Hochul’s goal to develop two million climate friendly homes by 2030.

Residential amenities include a community room with a kitchen located near the main entrance, office space for management and resident support, a bicycle storage area, laundry facilities, and trash storage areas. All apartments are visitable and handicapped adaptable with age-friendly design features such as grab bars, low-reach shelving and cabinets, lever-style door handles, under-cabinet lighting, and zero transition showers. There is shared exterior greenspace with the neighboring Barton Apartments.

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said, “Improving access to affordable housing is a countywide priority and something I have focused my attention on as we continue to move forward with a collaborative approach to expand and enhance affordable housing options locally. Everyone deserves to have a safe and affordable place to live. It is through strategic planning that we have major stakeholders from throughout the state working together towards a shared goal of developing projects such as this. I thank all of our partners in government for their efforts with the conversion and redevelopment of this structure and look forward to further announcements about the continued renaissance of this historic piece of property.

Sustainable features include Energy Star-labeled equipment and light fixtures, low VOC paints and sealants, Green Label Certified floor coverings and low-flow plumbing fixtures.

State Senator Sean M. Ryan said, “Supporting the development of more affordable housing is essential for the future of Buffalo and Western New York. As we work to add to our region’s housing stock, adaptive reuse projects like this one are an important part of our housing strategy. Transforming the former Women and Children’s Hospital campus will be a significant boost for the Elmwood Village and today we celebrate a milestone in this important effort.

The developer and supportive service provider is People Inc.

Assemblymember Jon D. Rivera said, “The newly constructed Folwell Apartments represent an exciting addition within Buffalo’s historic Elmwood Village and to a neighborhood that serves families of all sizes and ages. With vital wraparound services and robust amenities, the Folwell Apartment complex will serve a senior population in our city that is in need of diverse options for affordable, independent living. I thank People Inc. and the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal for recognizing this immediate need and for having the vision and commitment to make our communities strong and accessible.

State financing for the Folwell Apartments adaptive reuse project includes $5 million in Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and $5 million in subsidy from New York State Homes and Community Renewal.

New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “The $15 million adaptive reuse of this maternity hospital into 44 homes for older New Yorkers brings this building full circle. Folwell Apartments will allow residents to age in place safely and with dignity in a supportive and active environment. We are grateful to the city of Buffalo, People Inc and our sister agencies for investing in the strategic plan to bring this historic property back to useful life.

In addition, the project anticipates nearly $4.5 million in state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits. NYSERDA provided $44,000 in support through the Low-Rise New Construction Program.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said, “Every Buffalo resident deserves access to safe affordable housing, and I am proud that the Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit has supplied the millions needed to transform this former hospital building into dozens of new affordable accessible apartments for Buffalo’s most senior residents,” said Senator Schumer. “I applaud Governor Hochul’s commitment to increasing access to affordable housing across the Empire State, and I will keep fighting to deliver the federal resources to lay the foundation for a brighter future for Western New York.

The Federal Home Loan Bank of New York provided more than $401,000 and the city of Buffalo contributed $850,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to the cost of development.

Folwell Apartments will provide safe, stable homes for seniors while breathing new life into Buffalo’s Elmwood Village neighborhood,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “My administration is tackling the housing shortage head-on by identifying opportunities like this one that repurpose vacant space and generates the quality homes that New Yorkers need and deserve.

Image courtesy of the Office of Governor Kathy Hochul.

See People, Inc. website.

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