Dr. Uzo Ihenko’s proposal to repurpose 343-345 Broadway into a mix of residential, retail, and commercial space is a significant addition to the resurgence of Broadway between downtown and Jefferson Avenue. The long-overlooked area is in the shadows of downtown and is loaded with potential. The recent investment activity has been thirty years in the making.
Neighboring streets have seen hundreds of new single-family homes constructed, nearly all subsidized, that filled-in once decimated blocks. It started with Willert Park Village, a mix of single-family detached and duplexes, all-brick and built by M.J. Peterson Co. The architectural style was selected to resemble the character of city housing. Construction started in 1982 and consisted of 27 homes selling for $25,000 to $30,000 each in the Hickory/Pratt/Sycamore Street area. Homes cost $70,000 to build but sales prices were reduced through Community Development Block Grant funding. Homes were built on vacant, City-owned lots. The development won the Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence in 1989.
Early sales success let to additional phases in the immediate vicinity and eventually led to more homes in the area bounded by Jefferson Avenue to the east, William Street to the south, Pine Street to the west and Genesee Street to the north. Unfortunately, the home designs were simplified in successive phases and the term “vinyl Victorian” was born. Design misgivings aside, the new homes stabilized what was a once transient, half-vacant neighborhood.
Though side streets have filled in, Broadway remained relatively untouched. Much of the streetscape has been removed by urban renewal and other demolitions, a project in 1999 saved one of the more prominent historic buildings. HELP USA’s Hickory Street Apartments consists of 25 units of service-enriched housing for formerly homeless adults. The three-story building at 384 Broadway has a distinctive corner tower. HELP USA is now rehabbing a building across the street and constructing a significant addition to create 47 new apartments.
At Broadway and Michigan, a development team led by architect Steve Carmina has a $6 million adaptive reuse project underway. The complex of buildings will be redeveloped into 18 apartments and 9,052 sq.ft. of commercial space, indoor parking, a restaurant, and 2,000 sq.ft. donated for use by the local chapter of the NAACP. Michael Anderson of Abstract Architecture purchased 313 Broadway at the corner of Cedar Street and is rehabbing the property for his use.
Link to Pdf map here
There are numerous other sites available for redevelopment including vacant lots and historic buildings. The City has been seeking state financial help to create a public works campus. If successful, the streets department facility at 201 Broadway could be redeveloped. Known as the Broadway Barns, it was previously used as an auditorium and a portion of the complex was an armory built in 1858.
In what may be the largest “neighborhood ready” site close to downtown, the Buffalo Forge Plant property has been vacant since 2006. Covering the full-block of Broadway, Sycamore, Spring and Mortimer streets, the factory’s owners, Howden Buffalo, applied for and received permission to demolish the complex due to unsafe conditions and structural problems.
Howden Buffalo participated in the NYS Brownfield Cleanup Program but the status of the remedial work was not available. The 7.9-acre property (12.5 acres including the employee parking lots east of Mortimer Street) has drawn development interest, most recently from a church-based development corporation interested in a residential project. That effort stalled and the property remains available- a blank slate within a short walking distance to Lafayette Square.
East Side development faces many challenges including low population density, real or perceived crime, an undetermined need or demand for new residential and commercial space, and a likely gap between potential rent or sale prices verses construction costs. But with demand for downtown residential living showing no signs of slowing down, a dearth of redevelopment-ready buildings downtown, and a close-in location, the stars are lining up for Broadway. In real estate, no one wants to be first in, and the pioneering projects along Broadway have set the stage for others.