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Higgins Prods City/BMHA on Perry Project

Looking to spur redevelopment of the decrepit portions of the Commodore Perry housing complex, Congressman Brian Higgins is calling for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority to seek a private sector development partner to push the long-anticipated project forward. The Commodore Perry housing complex consists of 414 units in two-story townhouse and three-story walk-up apartment buildings. Over 150 of the units are vacant due to structural damage.

The BMHA is currently involved in a plan for the redevelopment of 172 units within the Perry neighborhood under the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. The RAD program allows for private sector investment in publicly owned property toward the goal of improving and preserving affordable housing.

Concepts Shown by Congressman Higgins.  Prepared by Lauer-Manguso Architects.

The BMHA is seeking demolition funding through New York State for this portion property but it is unclear when or if this funding will become available. Rather than waiting for public funding to materialize, Higgins is calling on the BMHA to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to private developers to purchase these abandoned properties, which sits on 12.8 acres, as well as the BMHA-owned vacant 7.6 acres immediately to the south. He envisions new housing for low and moderate-income people along with market-rate units.

“The pervasive emptiness and deterioration of properties in the Perry neighborhood is unacceptable and has been discounted for too long,” said Congressman Higgins. “Less than a mile from the bustling Canalside and Cobblestone districts sits 12 abandoned and boarded up buildings as well as a community impatient for action. The status quo should not be tolerated. We need a focused and proactive approach to neighborhood revitalization in the Perry neighborhood. ”

In 2013, the BMHA sought HUD funding to redevelop the entire complex. The “Perry Choice” master plan called for rehabilitation or replacement of the public housing units and creation a new mixed-income neighborhood consisting of public and market-rate housing units. The phased master plan included over 800 units of new housing, four acres of new parks, and a community/recreation center.

Perry Choice Proposal

BMHA worked with the University at Buffalo Center for Urban Studies, architectural and planning firm WRT, and neighborhood residents and stakeholders on the reuse plan for the neighborhood. Planning started in 2012 and Pennrose Properties of Philadelphia was selected as ‘master developer’ for the project. The project did not get awarded federal funding however and the deterioration continued.

In recent years, the area has been short-listed as a potential site for a new Bills stadium but the Pegulas have not tipped their hand on where they prefer a new stadium if there is one built.

Like at Canalside, Congressman Higgins is not happy with the lack of action. He also plans to advocate for Congress to lift the cap currently imposed on HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration Program to allow for BMHA to seek, in a third improvement phase, an RFP to address the redevelopment of 242 units located on the east end of Perry Street.

Higgins pointed to the Lofts @ Elk Terminal as an example of the transformation he would like to see.

“We need to look no further than a couple of blocks away to see the potential. Steps away we have a nearly 100-year-old food terminal that has been redeveloped into high-demand, historic, luxury lofts. The same potential for creative redevelopment is possible here if we open up this vacant property to interested developers eager to invest in Buffalo’s rebirth.”

According to Commodore Perry residents interviewed by The Buffalo News, they fear they will be priced out of the development. They prefer rebuilding of the site with new low-income units.

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

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