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First Housing at Highland Park Project Proposed

Edit- the housing is proposed within the Highland Park project site, not along Chalmers as previously written.

Elim Christian Fellowship Church is proposing the first new housing in the Highland Park neighborhood. The 30-unit affordable housing project would be built along Holden Street south of Bennett Village Terrace and across from Elim’s parking lot and chapel. Elim is working with Belmont Housing and Silvestri Architects on the $7 million project that would be constructed by CSS Construction.

“My work with Elim Church goes back ten years when I worked on the Elim Sanctuary at Chalmers Avenue and Holden Street,” said David Pawlik, president of Creative Structures Services, Inc. “It is a great organization let by Pastor Anthony Bronner.”

The housing would be a mix of townhouses and one-story units. A community center would also be constructed. It is located on a 2.5 site within the Highland Park project that LPCiminelli is working on at the former Central Park Plaza location.

LPCiminelli bought the 27-acre Central Park Plaza site for $800,000 in 2012 and has completed demolition, remedial work, and has installed infrastructure for the development’s first phase. Highland Park is expected containing up 663 new mixed-income rental units, new roads to tie the site into adjacent neighborhoods, and parks.

New housing will consist of rental units in a mix of building types including four-story buildings, three-story walk-up units, senior housing, lofts, and townhouses. Eighty percent of the units will be market-rate and the balance will be income-restricted affordable. Housing construction has not started.

Elim is applying for tax credits in December. If approved construction would start in 2018.

“This will link to what is happening at Highland Park,” says Pawlik. “It complements what is happening there.”

Written by Buffalo Rising

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  • It doesn’t match up with what is circled in the rendering.

    Since when did the Green Code allow for non parallel parking as well?

    • Johnny Pizza

      An easier exercise would be determining what does the Green Code allow? We know what isn’t allowed – every project that has been proposed since its adoption. So please, to the creators of the Green Code, what are people allowed to build?

      • 300miles

        “So please, to the creators of the Green Code, what are people allowed to build?”

        Why not just read it? There’s a website. It’s in English.

        • Johnny Pizza

          What I’m looking for is an example development. Show me what would work. Show me the numbers, the income, the expenses, the cost, the returns. Show me that a real estate developer, big or small, can do what the Green Code says and make money. Obviously the people who spent 6 – 8 years writing the code had some kind of development(s) in mind. What are they? Do they work financially?

          If they spent 6 – 8 years writing a code that will make developing property difficult and less profitable than they have done a major disservice to the million residents in the Buffalo / Niagara area. You want to see more sprawl? Well put height limits and other restrictions on City of Buffalo development. Remember how a mass exodus to the burbs destroyed the city? Guess what happens when the city makes development more difficult while the burbs do not? More sprawl.

          • 300miles

            in other words – “I’m too lazy to just read it myself, but I’ll post all my negative assumptions without caring if any of it is actually true.”

          • Johnny Pizza

            The Unified Development Ordinance is 338 pages by itself. The Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan is another 177 pages. I doubt the mayor even read it before he signed it into law.
            I am a lay person. I didn’t have any input in the code. I’m asking the urban planning and real estate experts who wrote the code to put forth a simple example of what new real estate development the code is trying evoke. Take the evil Ciminelli project as an example and change it so that (1) it conforms with the code and (2) it makes enough money that someone like a Ciminelli (or another developer) would do it. If that simple task can’t be done, I’d say the code is flawed and will lead to a sharp drop in development in Buffalo. The code may incorporate a million positive changes to the prior code, but if nobody can make it work its as worthless as the paper its printed on. You’d think for someone who spent almost a decade working on the code that this would be a piece of cake.

          • 300miles

            I would bet that the mayor has read a good chunk of it. If you *really* wanted to know, you could contact someone directly, or go to the website and read up on it. It’s not the city’s job to make developers profitable when they choose to ignore the rules. New development in the neighborhood is limited in both height and width. Elmwood has had similar rules for years prior to the greencode. You can argue the specifics about how high or how wide, but there are valid reasons for the concept of those restrictions. Nobody forced Ciminelli to buy a dozen properties and combine them into one mega project requiring multiple major variances. He’s not a layman. He knew what the rules were. Each property could have been developed in a way that made the owner profit. He instead chose to break multiple rules. He took a gamble and so far he is losing that gamble. That struggle is his own problem that he put on himself.

          • Johnny Pizza

            1) The Green Code took almost a decade to write. Unfortunately developers can’t just shut down all business waiting on armchair architects to say what the new rules are. They began their process before the GC was adopted. They have been willing to play ball with some GC aspects before the document was adopted.

            2) Variances from code have existed for as long as codes have, its not just Ciminelli or any developer for that matter. It will continue despite a new code just having been adopted.

            3) There is no valid reason for the 3 story limit. Its anti-urban, anti-green and pro-sprawl. Its a suburban law that should never have been considered, especially at the 3 story height, for a city building code. Simple as that. You want height limits for your neighbors, go to one of the dozen suburban towns who already have similar laws on the books. Don’t stifle future growth of our already struggling city because you want sunshine in your backyard like this is Lancaster or Clarence. But alas, for a typical conceited EV resident, they are the best people in Buffalo and they have the best houses and the best neighborhood so everyone else bow down to their will. I’ve wondered if Ciminelli was caught off guard by the fact that EV residents weighing in on the code kept spewing about urbanism and then pushed the most suburban law possible into a city building code.

            4) Nobody forced local residents to buy a house in the city. Cities are big, they have tall buildings. They grow. They change. Welcome to urbanism.

            5) “Each property could have been developed in a way that made the owner profit.” – I would put every single penny to my name on the fact that this statement is dead wrong. Its a number of buildings. If you want to redevelop say 10 buildings at 3 stories with apartments you need 10 elevators, 10 water lines, 10 security systems, 10 power lines, 10 stairwells, 10 sewer lines, 10 building permits, 10 planning board approvals etc, which is cost prohibitive for obvious reasons.

    • JSmith37

      It makes more sense now that the article has been edited. This is in the old Central Park Plaza site, and is zoned D-R (residential campus). Unlike the neighborhood (N) zones, the D zones have few form requirements. Buildings here can face a parking lot, although it is preferred but not required for the main entrance to face the street. Parking still has to be in a rear or interior side yard; it can’t be in front between the building and the street.

      • Yeah, it definitely makes sense.

  • S Mills

    Garbage. If the Central Park developments goes through, the area between it and Main Street needs to be well designed to really reconnect it back to the city.

    The one story buildings, the parking… it’s just failing to capitalize on the one chance to bring this area back and make it a desireable neighborhood.

    • eagercolin

      I think it’s being designed for people who already consider it a desirable neighborhood.

  • JKR

    Too small.

  • robert biniszkiewicz

    low income housing: This project: $9m for 30 units = $300,000 per apartment to construct. On the one hand, this is the going rate for these projects (see below). On the other hand, it is an obscene amount of money to spend on low income apartments. Government waste, not through corruption or intent, but through bureaucracy and red tape and too many mouths feeding on the teat of government. Here are more examples of outrageous low income housing costs:

    1) Jefferson at William, Willert Park (BMHA 2018), phase 3: 48 apartments, $19.5m = $406,000 PER APARTMENT!! (that’s 2018. inflation, you see)

    2) Jefferson, AD Price (BMHA 2015), phase 2: 50 apartments, $12.9m = $258,000 per apartment (that’s 2 years ago)

    3) Shoreline, Niagara St (Norstar Development, 2016): 48 apartments, $14m = $291,666 per apartment

    4) West Side (PUSH & Housing Visions Unlimited, 2015): 46 apartments, $13.4m = $291,304 per apartment

    5) Evergreeen Lofts (Cherry St, 5 story overlooking I-33, 2016): 56 apartments, $16.5 m = $294,643 per apartment

    6) Virginia/Lemon (St. John Fruit Belt Community Development Corp, 2015): 49 apartments, $15.3m = $312,245 per apartment

    7) St. Martin’s Village, Dodge Street (CAO, 2011): 60 apartments, $16m = $266,667 per apartment

    • eagercolin

      How much of the sticker shock at these prices comes from the fact that we assume low income housing should be cheap and/or not profitable?

      • robert biniszkiewicz

        but in a county where the median home sale is $135,000, why are we building ANY $300,000 apartments for low income tenants? Why should homeowners (struggling to pay their own mortgages) finance low income housing costing far more than double the value of their own homes (and 4x or more the cost of apartments in the marketplace)?

        We could get far more done with the same money if we instead subsidized rent in the broader marketplace for low income tenants. The average apartment per unit cost has risen dramatically in the last few years, but even in the best neighborhoods $80k/unit is on the high end. $60k/apartment or less is not uncommon. Yet we are paying four times that amount for these new units. It’s upside down. Low income housing is a money spigot, but it’s poor bang for the taxpayer’s buck. Contractors get work, construction gets jobs, politicians get traction, but the taxpayer gets fleeced.

        • eagercolin

          But comparing market and subsidized housing is apples and oranges, right? The folks building market rate housing know they can rely on years of market rate rents to make the project profitable, while low income developers can’t. If we want folks to build and then responsibly manage low income housing, there has to be a profit for them somewhere. Maybe their profit is front loaded?

          • robert biniszkiewicz

            you’re missing the point: why are we building brand new low income housing at all? There is plenty of affordable housing available at the ready; just subsidize rents like Section 8 does for those who qualify. Those tax dollars would be far more effectively spent, buying many more families suitable digs. This is extraordinarily expensive, unjustifiably so.

          • Bob

            But isn’t Section 8 simply flushing money? At least after $300K the city or a nonprofit owns the property and building in perpetuity. Spending $300K on Section 8 rents nets the public nothing. Not that I’m suggesting the building costs are acceptable or can’t be streamlined, but at least it’s better than lining the pocket of some out of state slumlord.

          • robert biniszkiewicz

            1) even the $300k often nets the public with nothing. After the regulatory period of low rent the non profit often owns nothing; the developer often owns the project. But even without this:

            2) the subsidies for rent paid over 30 years would be extraordinarily less than the money paid for a $300k apartment. If owning the real estate is the goal (not a bad goal), then buy existing apartment buildings, where the per unit cost is between $60k-$80k instead of $300k. The non profits could buy four times the number of units. And these are not terrible slums, but apartments in nice sections of town.

          • Bob

            True, purchasing and renovating existing units might make more sense, economically. Then again,
            1. there are a number of benefits to investing in borderline, gap-filled/vacant lot neighborhoods.
            2. the $300K stays in the local economy rather than just going out of state w/every sec8 voucher.
            3. $300K over 30 years is, what, $850/month? You obviously know the local real estate market better than I, but is that really so far off from what sec8 would be on these units after account for inflation, etc. over the home’s lifespan?

            Not that I particularly disagree w/your position – simply am mentioning the other side of the equation that I don’t think is being accounted for. All that said, obviously they should be able to get the construction costs down.

          • eagercolin

            I’m all in favor of increasing funding for Section 8. The problem is that such funding is politically vulnerable and limited by nature, since such programs can always be cut or reduced. The good thing about tax credit financing for new builds is that it’s essentially limitless, or only limited by the market for buying credits from developers.