Buffalo repurposes long-vacant warehouse and long-dead plaza for affordable housing

On April 4, 2019, New York‘s governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, announced both the completion of a mixed-use affordable housing project based on adaptive reuse, and the start of new affordable housing project based on regenerating a blighted, 27-acre former shopping plaza with townhomes.

Both of them are on the East Side of Buffalo; an area that’s currently the focus of significant revitalization efforts (previously documented here in REVITALIZATION).

A typical A&P supermarket in 1941.
This one was in Snowdon, Quebec, Canada.

First up is the completion of AP Lofts at Larkinville. This is a $40 million rehabilitation of the former Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P) warehouse, which had been vacant for some 45 years. A&P used to be the largest retailer in the U.S., but went out of business in 2015 after 156 years in operation.

Simultaneously, Governor Cuomo announced the groundbreaking of Elim Townhomes. , which is part of an overall effort to redevelop the former Central Park Plaza.

Senator Tim Kennedy said, “The Elim Townhomes and the AP Lofts at Larkinville will be yet another triumph in Buffalo’s ongoing revitalization. This multimillion dollar investment in affordable housing on Buffalo’s East Side will benefit hundreds of families. At this critical moment, projects like these are what make the difference. I want to congratulate the Elim Community Development Corporation, KCG Development, and Belmont Housing Resources for WNY on their efforts and commitment to continued investment and growth in the City of Buffalo.”

Together, the developments will create 177 new affordable homes and over 4,100 square feet of ground floor commercial space. The two housing and community development projects further New York State’s ongoing revitalization efforts of Buffalo’s East Side.

As Buffalo’s economy continues to grow, it is critical that we invest in new housing opportunities that ensure all residents have the chance to share in the Queen City’s renaissance,” Governor Cuomo said. “These affordable housing units will help further our efforts to revitalize Buffalo’s East Side and build a better future for its families.

The Elim Townhomes and AP Lofts projects continue our commitment to moving Buffalo’s East Side forward with new housing, infrastructure, businesses, and a renewed sense of hope for residents,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “With funding from New York State Homes and Community Renewal, we are creating more affordable housing opportunities and improving the quality of life of Buffalo’s neighborhoods. From Larkinville to Fillmore avenue, we are focused on investing in every zip code to ensure further progress.

A common area in AP Lofts, with a display documenting the heritage of the building.

Andrew Cuomo’s commitment to improving access to safe, affordable housing is reflected in the State’s unprecedented $20 billion, five-year Housing Plan. The plan makes housing accessible and combats homelessness by building or preserving more than 100,000 affordable homes and 6,000 with supportive services.

The plan is a comprehensive approach to statewide housing issues and includes multi-family and single-family housing and community development. Since 2011, HCR has invested more than $112 million on Buffalo’s East Side that has built or preserved 1,217 affordable apartments. This has created affordable housing for more than 2,700 people.

AP Lofts at Larkinville transforms the historic Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company—which has been vacant since 1975—into a vibrant 147-unit, loft-style apartment complex with a farm-to-table restaurant and brew pub on the ground floor.

The majority of the one and two-bedroom apartments will be affordable to households at or below 60 percent of the Area Median Income and with 28 apartments for households at or below 130 percent of the Area Median Income. Belt Line Brewery & Kitchen occupies 4,100 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor facing Hamburg Street.

Originally built in 1910, the eight-story warehouse was added to both the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2015. The building renovations included interior demolition; all new interior partitions; updated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; and new roofing, elevators and windows. The energy-efficient building includes EnergyStar lighting fixtures and appliances, motion sensor activated lighting and low flow plumbing fixtures.

AP Lofts at Larkinville offers residents a community room, business center, fitness and wellness center, outdoor patios and green space and climate-controlled indoor parking. HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “AP Lofts at Larkinville and Elim Townhomes are bringing new opportunity to the East Side. More than 177 residents will have a beautiful and affordable home with easy access to community resources, employment, transit, arts and culture and other amenities. By finding a new purpose for these two former industrial sites, we are creating a brighter future for the East Side while acknowledging the neighborhood’s history as a manufacturing district. Congratulations to all of our partners on both developments.

New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s financing for AP Lofts at Larkinville included $6.5 million in tax-exempt bonds, federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits that generated $9.9 million in equity and an additional $8 million in subsidy.

Acting State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “Across New York, communities and businesses are embracing historic preservation strategies to promote community renewal, cultural enrichment and economic growth. I applaud the AP Lofts at Larkinville for their great utilization of historic tax credits that both preserves the distinct history of the community while providing creative development solutions for the betterment of the state.

State and federal historic tax credits generated nearly $11.35 million in equity. The City of Buffalo provided $975,000 in HOME funds. The project was developed by KCG Development.

The 27-acre, long-vacant Central Park Plaza.
Photo courtesy of Buffalo Rising.

Also on the East Side, construction is underway at Elim Townhomes, a $10.7 million, 30-unit affordable housing complex that is part of the redevelopment of the former Central Park Plaza.

Elim Townhomes will join the larger Highland Park Village to continue the transformation of the vacant, neglected shopping plaza site into a vibrant residential community, adding affordable homes to the new community, which will eventually include 600 apartments, walk-ups and townhomes, single family homes, a hotel, restaurants and medical services.

Elim Townhomes will have five townhome-style buildings with apartments affordable to households with incomes at or below 50 percent of the Area Median Income.

Six apartments will be set aside for individuals with a physical disability or traumatic brain injury. Amenities include on-site laundry, a community room with a kitchen area, dedicated storage space in each unit, a playground, an outside seating area and on-site bicycle storage.

The development team includes Belmont Housing Resources for WNY and the Elim Community Development Corporation. Elim Townhomes is the first project developed by the Elim Community Development Corporation in affiliation with Elim Christian Fellowship church.

Michael Riegel, President, Belmont Housing Resources for WNY, said, “Creating new opportunities for affordable housing for the residents of Western New York is something that we take great pride in. This is our fourth new housing project completed on the East Side of Buffalo in the past six years. Seeing the revitalization of this area has not only been exciting for us to watch, but to be able to be a part of, as these opportunities help support our mission and ultimately change lives here in Western New York.

Tim Hogues, Board Chairman, Elim Community Development Corporation, explained, “Elim’s commitment to the revitalization of the Fillmore-Leroy neighborhood began well over 15 years ago when Bishop T. Anthony Bronner made the decision to build a church in the heart of a community where so many other businesses and organizations were leaving. Our continued commitment to this area is reinforced through our current collaboration with Belmont Housing Resources for WNY, Inc. in developing the Elim Townhomes project. The effort required to achieve this momentous ground breaking has been built on dedication and a belief that this neighborhood is capable of a renaissance through hard work and community building through meaningful partnerships.

State financing for Elim Townhomes includes federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits that will generate $6.7 million in equity and an additional $3 million in subsidy. The City of Buffalo provided $900,000 in HOME funds.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz concluded, “The revitalization of Buffalo’s East Side is taking a major step forward with these projects, both of which will provide affordable housing while adding to the new energy in the city. The AP Lofts at Larkinville are transforming a historic building into a contemporary living space while the construction of the Elim Townhouses is continuing the redevelopment of the former Central Park Plaza, so each project is creating a dynamic community center where none existed before. These are truly transformative projects that are good for Buffalo and Erie County.”

Featured photo is courtesy of AP Lofts at Larkinville.

See AP Lofts at Larkinville website.

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