$29 million project turns historic, long-vacant 1925 school into affordable housing for veterans, revitalizing Buffalo’s East Side

On September 28, 2021, construction got underway on School 75 Apartments, a $29 million redevelopment on Buffalo, New York‘s East Side that will provide 47 affordable homes in a repurposed former public school and an additional 18 new single-family homes.

Commissioner of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Erik Kulleseid said, “Originally constructed in 1925, the former Buffalo Public School 75 project is another great example of how historic preservation is breathing new life to Buffalo’s East Side. The Historic Tax Credit program is driving investments in historic structures, which helps lift local economies, create jobs, and promotes sustainable building practices in our state’s cities and towns.

Erie County Legislator Howard Johnson said, “This development adds to the ongoing renaissance of Buffalo as affordable housing is the bedrock to any upcoming neighborhood. This Veterans housing and supportive services aspect ensures what is being delivered for our Veterans is something that adds value to the community. This is a shining example of bringing various state and local stakeholders together to transform a neighborhood.

Thirty-three of the apartments will be reserved for homeless veterans and military service-disabled individuals.

Gigi Grizanti, President & CEO of Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition said, “It has been 25 years since we dropped a shovel in the ground to add to our affordable housing efforts for our Veterans in need. After many years of planning, we are excited for the opportunity to be able to transform this neighborhood and replace an empty school and vacant properties into a thriving building and add these beautiful homes for our Veterans and their families. These efforts would be possible with the confidence from our many funders and Norstar, our development partner. We are looking forward to becoming part of this growing community.

All 65 homes will be affordable to households with incomes at or below 60 percent of the Area Median Income. Twenty households will receive on-site supportive services and rental subsidies funded through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative and administered by the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Mayor Byron W. Brown said, “This is a proud moment for Buffalo and the East Side. An old school is finding new life that will provide much needed affordable and supportive housing for veterans. We are plugging gaps in the neighborhood with new houses for families. I congratulate and thank the Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition, Norstar Development, New York State Homes and Community Renewal and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, for making this game-changing development possible.

An additional thirteen households will receive U.S. Housing and Urban Development Continuum of Care rental subsidies through Erie County. The development’s 33 supportive apartments will be reserved for veterans.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “Affordable housing is critical to stable communities and helps build strong neighborhoods. This project will be greatly beneficial to Buffalo’s East Side, reusing an old building and bringing new life and activity to the area. It is a smart investment and one that will improve Erie County and Buffalo.

Public School 75 held its last classes in 1979 and after several uses since, the building remained vacant for more than 20 years. Alterations to the three-story brick exterior will carefully preserve the historic architectural elements. All windows will be replaced with historic aluminum windows and four entry doors will be replaced to match the look of the originals.

HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “The pandemic laid bare the need for affordable and supportive housing, especially for New Yorkers already struggling with housing insecurity. Through our partnership with the Western New York Veterans’ Housing Coalition and Norstar Development, this $29 million development expands housing opportunities on Buffalo’s East Side for families and veterans and adds new vitality to a long-vacant but beautiful historic school building. By transforming underutilized spaces into affordable housing, we can better serve our urban communities.

The gymnasium and classrooms will be reconfigured into 47 apartments and the front of the auditorium will be used as the main entrance and community room. The rear of the auditorium, including the former balcony, will be used to house the new corporate offices for the Western New York Veterans’ Housing Coalition, the supportive service provider.

The complex also involves the new construction of 18 single-family homes on vacant parcels surrounding the former school throughout the William-Emslie neighborhood.

NYS Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “The start of construction of a $29 million repurposing of the Long Vacant P.S. 75, and 18 new buildings in Buffalo’s Eastside, to provide affordable homes for homeless veterans and military service-disabled individuals serves as a shining example of the New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s commitment to revitalizing our community. I applaud the Western New York Veterans’ Housing Coalition, Norstar Development USA, and all the other community stakeholders whose leadership contributed to making this project a reality.

The co-developers are the Western New York Veterans’ Housing Coalition and Norstar Development USA, L.P.

State financing for the development is through New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s allocation of Federal and State Low Income Housing Tax Credits that will generate about $15.8 million in equity, $4.1 million through the Supportive Housing Opportunity Program, and $580,000 through the Community Investment Fund.

Senior Project Manager of Norstar Development USA, L.P. Daniel Bellgraph said, “Norstar is honored to have partnered with the WNY Veterans’ Housing Coalition, Inc., our funding partners and all team members from New York State and locally who worked to make this project a reality. The School 75 project will have a transformative impact and provide much needed affordable housing in the community – particularly for those Veterans who bravely served our country.

The New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation awarded Federal and State Historic Tax Credits which will generate more than $6.7 million in equity, and the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) will provide $72,000 through its low-rise new construction program. The city of Buffalo is providing $850,000 through the HOME program.

NYSERDA President & CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “NYSERDA is pleased to provide support for this project, which will help ensure that Buffalo-area low-income residents and veterans have access to safe, healthy, and comfortable housing with energy efficient features that provide enhanced performance and energy bill savings. Maintaining the historic character of existing buildings while equipping them with modern amenities that use the latest clean energy technology to provide affordable housing is a win-win in the State’s efforts to ensure all New Yorkers benefit from the transition to economy-wide neutrality outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

School 75 Apartments are part of the state’s unprecedented $20 billion, five-year Housing Plan to make housing accessible and to combat homelessness by building or preserving more than 100,000 affordable homes and 6,000 homes with supportive services. Since 2011, New York State Homes and Community Renewal has invested more than $307 million in Buffalo, which has created or preserved more than 3,200 affordable homes.

Senator Tim Kennedy said, “The Public School 75 Apartments are yet another example of New York’s investment in affordable, supportive housing. This project will preserve and repurpose an East Side educational institution, providing a space to call home for veterans across Buffalo. This construction milestone marks significant progress, and I look forward to seeing this development change the lives of so many who have sacrificed so much for our country.

Our commitment to fighting homelessness and housing insecurity continues with this latest development that breathes new life into a historic Buffalo school,” Governor New York Kathy Hochul said. “Public School 75 was once a place where generations of children were able to learn and get their start toward a bright future. Our investment will once again allow this location to be the centerpiece of a vibrant neighborhood where families have the chance to grow, and our veterans receive the support they deserve.

Images courtesy Office of New York Governor.

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