Hamlin Park is a neighborhood that is very under the radar for most Buffalonians looking for a new place or suburbanites moving into the city. People assume simply because it’s east of Main Street that there is no reason to consider it, which is a huge oversight. Those who live in Hamlin Park or are in the process of moving there now know better. Here are some of the biggest reasons why you should be looking to make Hamlin Park your home.
1) A Dedicated Community with Very Active Leadership: The Hamlin Park Community & Taxpayers Association (HPCTA) has been active since 1965 and continues to be a positive force in the neighborhood. The non-for-profit group was organized to be the local administrators of the Model Cities program in Hamlin Park from 1968 to 1975. Rather than disbanding after the program ended, the HPCTA stayed together and meets once a month, every month to discuss anything and everything related to the neighborhood.
Some things the HPCTA does include offering a scholarship fund for students who live in or have ties to the Hamlin Park neighborhood. They are overseeing the restoration of the Old Stone Farmhouse at 60 Hedley Place and have been crucial in securing funding for the rehabilitation of several homes in the neighborhood. Additionally, they organize tree plantings and neighborhood beautification efforts including clean-ups, infrastructure improvements, maintenance of signage and landscaped features, etc.
Each block has its own block club that meets regularly as well and works with the greater HPCTA to ensure issues big and small are given attention. Everyone knows what is going on in the neighborhood, the only people who are left out of the loop are those who don’t participate. Most families have been in Hamlin Park for several generations and as a result there is a lot of pride in keeping the neighborhood beautiful, tackling problems as quickly as possible, and lobbying City Hall for funding and consideration for improvement projects.
2) Historic District Designation Offers Incentives: Hamlin Park was designated a local historic district in the 1990s, which went a long way to protect the historic character of the neighborhood. Any material changes to the exterior of homes that requires a permit, must be approved by the Preservation Board to ensure the work is done within the Department of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. While the designation meant the neighborhood would retain its historic charm, it didn’t come with economic incentives.
However, the Hamlin Park Historic District is now listed on the State Register of Historic Places and is on the way to being approved by the National Park Service as a National Register Historic District. Preservation Studios completed all the work for the nomination, pro-bono and as a result homeowners and commercial property owners can utilize historic tax credits for qualified rehabilitation work. Here is an example of one such property on East Delavan that could be a great live/work space for someone.
If you own a contributing home in the district you can get a 20% tax credit for the approved work you do to the home. It basically includes anything related to the house itself including roof replacement, HVAC, electrical, and plumbing systems, restoration of architectural features, windows, etc. There are three requirements to enroll in the program: the rehab cost must be at least $5000, 5% of that must be spent on the exterior ($250), and home must be a contributing structure. Here is the official application, which is very straightforward.
Here is an example of the benefit. Let’s say you have to replace your roof, want to restore your porch details, and need a new furnace and the total cost is $15,000. The homeowner credit is 20% of the rehab expenses, which in this case yields a $3000 tax credit, which is applied to your state income tax for the year the project is completed. If your state income tax is less than $3000, the credit covers the taxes and the different is paid back to you in a refund.
Even better news, if you own an income producing property like renting a double or an industrial/commercial building, you are eligible for a 40% tax credit on rehab work. Just like the homeowner credit, 20% comes from the state and the other 20% comes from the federal government. If you’re keeping track, that means almost half of your rehab expenses are pretty much covered.
3) Proximity to Parks, Metro Rail, the Elmwood Village, the Medical Campus, and Expressways: Another fantastic selling point is the variety of different options for getting around Buffalo and the nearby recreation spots. For those unwilling to give up their cars, accessing the Kensington and Scajaquada Expressways are quick and easy. People more interested in sustainable modes of transportation have two options for Metro Rail stops; one at Main and Humboldt Parkway and one at East Delavan Avenue and Main Street.
The Main and Delavan entrance to Forest Lawn Cemetery is just a few blocks from the majority of homes in Hamlin Park for people who like to stroll and take in the landscape. The path around the Gala Waters in Delaware Park can be reached by bike in just over five minutes. Additionally, the Elmwood Village is a straight shot down Delavan Avenue, a mere seven minutes by bike, probably less for most people.
Young doctors and medical students with a lot of debt and little capital will appreciate the five minute drive or the ten minute bike ride from Hamlin Park (Northland and Jefferson Avenues) to the Medical Campus (Michigan and North Streets). When you’re paying off big student loans and throwing away money renting, reducing your transportation costs can have a huge impact. That takes me into my next point.
4) Affordable Home Prices with Historic Character: Most of the housing stock in Hamlin Park was built between 1895 and the mid-1920s, which means plenty of architectural character and historic features. I assembled a complete list of all property sales in Hamlin Park and the average purchase price ranges from about $40,000 to $70,000, making it very affordable for most people. There are a few deals to be had at the In-Rem auction every October and some really great houses can go for less than those prices, like the one I’m in the process of buying.
Many people are loving the ongoing revival in Buffalo and a lot of that is centered around the Elmwood Village and Allentown neighborhoods. As a result, housing prices have skyrocketed, rents are steadily high throughout, and people priced out of the housing market are forced to rent rather than own their own home.
The Elmwood Village/Allentown is close enough to Hamlin Park that walking, biking, or driving takes no time at all. In Hamlin Park you can spend your rent money on a mortgage payment instead, often close to the same price as renting in the Elmwood Village. Rather than throwing money away with an apartment that you won’t see a return on your investment, buy a house and make a profit on your investment when you sell.
The homes in Hamlin Park are really lovely with their big open porches, natural woodwork throughout, and parcels that offer some outdoor space without too much to maintain. Tree lined streets provide a great canopy over the street and a ribbon of little parks run through the neighborhood. These ribbon parks are located on top of the Scajaquada Creek, which was covered by culverts in 1920s.
|This is the same view, separated by almost 100 years. Not much has changed, but that’s a good thing|
5) A Stable, Walkable Community with Friendly Neighbors: There is an immeasurable value in having “eyes on the street” and neighbors who look out for one another. It deters crime, fosters good relationships amongst neighbors, and creates a unified community that can effectively overcome challenges. The head of the HPCTA, Stephanie Barber, is a force to be reckoned with and when she stands up for Hamlin Park, city hall listens.
The main commercial thoroughfare is East Delavan Avenue, but at the moment there are only a few corner stores and barber shops. Many of the storefront buildings are maintained, but underutilized, which presents numerous opportunities. A small restaurant would be a great fit along the stretch and it could make a killing since many people in the area also note the lack of eating establishments and the desire to have them. Some other storefront buildings are also scattered throughout the area, like Northland and Jefferson Avenues.
Closer to Canisius College, there is a great little cafe that is undergoing a remodel at the moment. Located at the corner of Oakgrove and Hughes Avenues, E.M. Tea Cup Coffee is a nice fit in the neighborhood and provides a place to grab some breakfast, coffee, or an occasional small live performance. It’s the only commercial building in that part of the area, but it fits well within the dense residential fabric.
I’m not moved in yet, but already love my neighbors. I kept an eye on the house during the winter and often went to shovel the sidewalk and driveway because it’s never too early to be a good neighbor. About the third time I went to shovel, to my astonishment, my neighbors had already cleared the sidewalk and about ten feet of my driveway. That’s not unique for my street, that’s the typical level of good neighbors you can expect in Hamlin Park.
|An empty storefront just begging for a restaurant|
Those are just five good reasons to move to Hamlin Park and you can bet that there are many more. Spend sometime in the area and talk to the neighbors and you’ll probably fall in love with this fantastic neighborhood for the same reasons I have. For additional streetscape photos of Hamlin Park, check out my Flickr page here.