Author: Pearl Steinzor
Located at 392 Genesee Street, Evergreen Lofts celebrates a successful first year, winning the Excelsior Award for Public Architecture in Historic Preservation on May 16, 2017 in Albany, NY. The Award was proudly accepted by and received by VP for Community Development, Justin Azzarella, and AVP of Special Projects and Strategic Initiatives, Kim LaVare. At a New York State level for architecture historic context, it was an easy win for the publicly funded Evergreen Lofts.
Evergreen Health has been working for just a little over thirty years with communities impacted by HIV and chronic disease. Since the 90’s, there has been a push to help provide those affected by HIV with proper health care and comprehensive assistance. Evergreen Health has provided scattered site housing for individuals living with HIV, struggling with homeless and the LGBTQ in Western New York for more than a decade. Its latest project, Evergreen Lofts, is an affordable, yet well-appointed downtown apartment building specifically targeted for those struggling with homelessness and/or living with a chronic disease, including HIV. The Evergreen Lofts is also an LGBTQ open and affirming residents.
Half of the residents of Evergreen Lofts have their rents partially funded by the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program, Evergreen Lofts features an open floor plan, a community center, a courtyard, a computer lab. Justin Azzarella, explains how perfectly the building fit the needs of Evergreen Health. With a little help from their partner agency, Southern Tier Environments for Living (STEL), 392 Genesee Street had it all. The 56-unit apartment space is within a mile from Evergreen’s main campus, and with an open floor plan easily accommodated changes to the building to allow for the creation of more than fifty apartments. Historic features asked to be preserved by State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) within the building include pillars throughout the halls, wood ceilings, beams, and exposed brick walls. With a bronze level for environmental efficiency, triple pane windows help to prevent noise and air pollution, while a super insulated roof helps keep heating costs at a minimum.
As for moving forward into the future, Azzarella hopes to continue to target the niche population of those facing housing challenges in LGBTQ, chronic disease and HIV community in Buffalo and Western New York. While Evergreen Lofts has only been open for a year, Azzarella and Evergreen Health are carefully researching other housing needs within the community. There is a great demand in the LGBTQ community for senior housing. Elderly LGBTQ people placed in senior homes often face discrimination and rejection by their heterosexual piers who have lived in a time when being openly gay was looked down upon. Many elderly LGBTQ placed in these senior homes often “re-closet” themselves, living the last of their days constrained and unable to express themselves freely. Azzarella and Evergreen Health hope to gather enough funding to help support efforts to end this problem in Western New York in the future.
Photos: John Carocci | Lead image: SWBR Architects (Architects and design team on the project)