U.S. city turns a brownfield parking lot into 201 transit-oriented affordable downtown apartments with a new fresh foods market

On October 21, 2021, it was announced that a new $76 million redevelopment project with 201 mixed-income affordable homes and a brand-new 22,000-square-foot fresh food market will open soon on a brownfield in Buffalo, New York‘s Central Business District.

NYS Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “The construction completion of a $76 million mixed-use housing development and fresh food market in Buffalo’s Central Business District serves as a shining example of great use of state resources to help revitalize our community by providing affordable housing to residents. I applaud New York State Homes and Community Renewal, Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation and all the other community stakeholder whose leadership contributed to making this project a reality.

The project—called 201 Ellicott—has remediated, repurposed and revitalized an underutilized, contaminated, city-owned surface parking.

HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “Buffalo’s Central Business District is markedly improved by the addition of the 201 Ellicott. The $76 million, 201-apartment development moves us closer to the state’s carbon reduction goals by replacing a surface parking lot with a transit-oriented development, and incorporating a fresh food market that provides easy access to groceries. When our downtowns become places where people can comfortably live, walk or bike to work, the local economy is lifted, and the environment is improved.

As documented in last year’s book, RECONOMICS, the affordable housing aspect makes it especially revitalizing for the city’s downtown area.

Creating and securing affordable housing is a cornerstone of building thriving communities and my administration is committed to making the investments necessary to make those efforts a reality,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said. “This project, which will create hundreds of affordable units in the heart of Buffalo’s central business district, is the latest example of this work and represents a major step forward in achieving a flourishing Buffalo.

The residential building at 201 Ellicott features 131 one-bedroom apartments and 70 two-bedroom apartments. Most apartments are affordable to households earning at or below 60 percent of the Area Median Income. 44 apartments are affordable to households earning up to 80 percent of the AMI.

Senator Timothy Kennedy said, “With the completion of 201 Ellicott Street and the neighboring Braymiller Market, we are further increasing density in Downtown Buffalo and ensuring that this growing population has access to fresh, healthy, and sustainable foods. As Buffalo’s population increases, projects like this will ensure that the city grows smartly. Congratulations to all who made these projects possible.

Building amenities include a community room with kitchenette, a gym, a laundromat on each floor, an on-site transit shelter, and a bicycle storage area with a bicycle repair station. The building also houses the city of Buffalo’s first mobility hub, offering multi-modal transportation solutions to residents through GO Buffalo Niagara.

Outdoor amenities include a landscaped and furnished recreational space and access to an on-site Reddy Bike station.

The property includes a standalone market that offers affordable fresh food, prepared foods in a café setting, catering, wholesale, and seasonal items. The project is also near the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library and numerous restaurants and entertainment venues, among other downtown resources and attractions.

The developer is Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation. Apartment leasing activities are currently underway and being coordinated by Belmont Housing.

President & CEO of Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation, Paul Ciminelli said, “This project is a testament to the vision and determination of all involved. We have collectively transformed what was once a surface parking lot, into a vibrant and connected destination within the Downtown core. Housing, food, commerce, and mobility, all come together right here at 201 Ellicott, providing an important milestone in the ongoing work to grow our city.”

In 2015, the city of Buffalo sought proposals to redevelop the 380-unit surface parking lot bounded by Ellicott, Oak, Clinton Streets and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s Metropolitan Transportation Center in the Central Business District. The property was deemed a brownfield and required remediation and cleanup through the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “New York’s Brownfield Cleanup Program is advancing the rebirth of communities across the state by returning hundreds of underutilized properties back to productive use, creating new housing and employment opportunities. The 201 Ellicott Street Apartments project, built on a former brownfield in Buffalo’s Central Business District, is successfully delivering new affordable apartments to the neighborhood, along with convenient access to fresh food from the brand-new Braymiller Market. DEC is proud to have played a role on this transformative project, which will energize the local economy and improve quality of life for this community.

State financing for the residential development includes $10.5 million in permanent tax-exempt bonds, Federal and State Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, which generated $21.8 million in equity, and $19.1 million in subsidy from New York State Homes and Community Renewal. HCR also provided $5.5 million in financing for the commercial building. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation awarded Brownfield tax credits that generated $12 million in equity.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “The project at 201 Ellicott will bring needed affordable housing and fresh food options to Buffalo’s downtown core, replacing an unused parking lot with an investment that brings people together and creates community. This is a good example of Buffalo’s continuing transformation and will be a welcome addition to the central business district.

201 Ellicott is part of the state’s $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.

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said, “The 201 Ellicott Street project aligns with my Administration’s priorities to continue to develop high-quality, affordable housing to our community, furthering our efforts to create and support vibrant, mixed-income neighborhoods where our residents thrive.

Since 2011, New York State Homes and Community Renewal has invested more than $307 million in Buffalo, creating or preserving more than 3200 affordable homes in the process.

Images courtesy of Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation.

See Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation website.

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