Work is wrapping up at St. Martin’s Village with residents moving into the complex this month. The project includes the rehab three historic buildings dating to 1927 and 1938 as well as new infill buildings. Located on Dodge Street, the complex is just steps away from the Buffalo Science Museum and Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Community Action Organization of Erie County is the project developer.
St. Martin’s Village is a 60 unit housing development at the site of what was once the German Roman Catholic Orphan Home and more recently served as a school campus. The buildings had been vacant for years. The new housing units are available for low and very- low income residents in two to four-bedroom units.
Although the $16 million project was completed on schedule, it didn’t mean it was without its challenges. There was over $1.5 million spent on site cleanup and abatement, the brick buildings were thoroughly cleaned and repaired as needed, and the cornice required a lot of work in order to be kept intact.
Two historic, three-story, rectangular, brick/clay-block towers have been renovated creating 12 two-bedroom apartments in each building. The circa-1938 chapel was also saved. Demolition of the remaining orphanage buildings was approved by the Buffalo Preservation Board.
It was important for the completed project to utilize as much recycled materials as possible according to the developer. Tiles were salvaged from the demolished buildings to create a complete roof for the chapel, concrete from sidewalks and curbs were recycled, and non-contaminated materials from the site were used for fill.
In keeping with the “green” approach all the appliances and lights are Energy Star rated in order to ensure that “the cost of utilities per month will stay remarkably low” according to Professor George Hezel who is involved with the project through UB Law School’s Affordable Housing Clinic.
One aspect of the project that was previously criticized was the amount of parking considering almost a third of Buffalo doesn’t have access to a car. Hezel explained that the amount parking was a result of City Code. He further went on to say that the complex could have been designed much differently with all the buildings in the rear and one massive lot upfront, “which would have been obscene” said Hezel.
First floor units are handicap accessible for those with special needs. The historic chapel (photos above) has been subdivided into two spaces, both of which serve as community rooms. One is reserved for the residents of St. Martin’s Village and the other is for the local neighborhood through the Community Action Organization (CAO). It was important for the project not to be separate from the surrounding neighborhood, but rather to create a greater sense of community according to Hezel.
55 of the 60 units have already been leased and minor details are currently being finished up for the opening this month. All of the units are affordable for households at or below 50 percent of area median income.