UPDATE: Willert Park has previously been deemed eligible for National Register listing, therefore providing additional review at the state and federal levels due to the funding sources for the project. The state has reviewed the request for demolition and declared it to have an adverse impact on a historic resource, effectively denying it as part of their review. The results of the federal review are unknown at this time, but as so much public subsidy is in the deal, the denial for demolition from the state and likely the feds will post a significant roadblock to demolition and push rehabilitation instead. A National Register nomination has been previously prepared for submission to the state for review, but cannot proceed as it requires owner’s consent and Mayor Brown has refused to sign. Deterioration of the property can be largely blamed on the BMHA as they have left the complex open to the elements since 2014 when many of the building’s windows were removed. The Preservation League of New York State named it as one of their Seven to Save in 2010.
Redevelopment of the AD Price Courts public housing site is progressing with the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA) seeking Planning Board approval for demolition of all but one of the remaining buildings on the site plus the construction of 48 new units. The public housing project (formerly Willert Park Courts) was constructed in 1939 by the BMHA as the first public housing for the African American community in the city. It is located at the northwest corner of William Street and Jefferson Avenue.
The BMHA is working with Bridges Development, Inc. and Norstar Development USA on the project. Earlier phases have produces l05 units of affordable family rental housing and 94 units of affordable senior mid-rise housing. Many of the new units are located along Jefferson Avenue and Madison and Monroe streets.
From the Planning Board submission:
The Willert Park Courts originally consisted of 170 units in 10 buildings on 3.47 acres of land, with a housing density of 49 dwelling units per acre which is significantly higher than the current density of the surrounding neighborhood. The existing flat-roofed buildings are all similar in design and exterior materials, each two or three stories in height and clad in yellow/ brown brick. The most distinctive of the existing buildings is the Administration Building, which originally contained the management offices and the central heating plant for the complex and includes a chimney rising 70′ above grade and the courtyard entrance with sculptural wall elements flanking the doors.
However, the existing buildings are grossly deteriorated, with building systems and layouts that are functionally obsolete based upon modern HUD and NYS HCR standards. A recent Physical Needs Assessment performed by the BMHA determined that a full rehabilitation would cost in excess of $19.7 million. The entire 170 unit complex is currently vacant and has been secured by the BMHA. No residents will be displaced.
The latest phase of development will occur on the former AD Price Courts parcel bounded on the east, north and west by Spring, West Peckham and Mortimer streets, and AD Price Phase III to the south and on a section of undeveloped land at 390 Jefferson Avenue located across the street from the AD Price Courts site. The 48 residential rental units includes (14) one-bedroom/one bath units; (8) two-bedroom/one bath units; (18) three-bedroom/1.5 bath units; (6) four-bedroom/2 bath units; and (2) five-bedroom/2 bath units.
The existing Administration Building would be renovated to include 12 modern, energy-efficient one- and two-bedroom walk-up apartments, in addition to a community center, laundry facilities, and administrative offices on the ground floor. The remaining nine public housing buildings, consisting of 151 dwelling units, would be replaced with 36 new, energy efficient units in a mix of single family, stacked, and duplex dwelling configurations.
The space between the renovated Administration Building and the new structures will consist of public open space with a new pedestrian “mews” connecting a new public plaza at the southeast comer of the site with Willert Park to the north. Four new duplex units will be constructed on undeveloped space located at 390 Jefferson Avenue.
On-site, off-street parking is located behind buildings, with new curb-cuts proposed on Spring Street, Mortimer Street and a proposed new single-block city street located to the south of the A.D. Price Courts site.
WRT of Philadelphia and Stieglitz Snyder Architecture are project architects.
If funding is secured, construction would begin in late-winter/ early spring 2018, and will be targeted for completion in December 2018.