The Hamlin Park taxpayers association had some special guests at their most recent meeting. Two representatives from the Ellicott Development Corporation, including CEO Bill Paladino, came to discuss their proposal for the Lutheran Church Home now sitting vacant at the corner of Pleasant and E. Delavan.
Originally built in 1906, with a second addition being added in the 1950s, the building was purchased by Ellicott Development in 2014 for a whopping $450,000. Before closing its doors, The Lutheran Church Home was an assisted-living facility with 65 apartments, commercial kitchen, communal dining area, and all the other amenities needed for elderly care at the time. As stated by the Ellicott Development representative, Paul Gregory, the current design of the building is not marketable as an assisted-living facility anymore due to its outdated layout.
Initially, the plans for the building was to convert the entire complex into student housing for nearby Canisius and Medaille college students. After push back from the community and the Taxpayers Association, those plans were scrapped and Ellicott Development came back with the plans for a new charter school, three blocks from already existing Hamlin Park School 73. Again, the community and Taxpayers Association said no. Now, five years later from the purchase date, the CEO of Ellicott Development company is sitting at the Taxpayers Association meeting, pitching their proposal for a mixed-use building with Community Music School of Buffalo as their anchor tenant.
“Community, Music, School… who could argue with that?” was Gregory’s opening line as he began the announcement.
The proposal is as follows: The Community Music School (CMS) will occupy the first two floors of the front building on a 10-year lease. The first floor will house studio and practice spaces, while the second floor will be converted into offices and classrooms. The first two floors of the rear building will be offices for Community Connections of New York (CCNY), essentially a non-profit consulting service for community organizations. Finally, the entire top floor of the three-story structure will all be made into market-rate apartments with roughly 10 to 15 units ranging from studios to two bedrooms. There will also be a beautification and landscaping project for the grounds of the building. New Urbanists rejoice – the historic front entrance will be purely decorative, and the main entrance will remain in the rear of the building facing the 35-car parking lot. As for the two-story garage building fronting Pleasant Place, no plans as of yet, apart from car storage for an unknown tenant.
It is commendable that Ellicott Development and Bill Paladino have been willing to work with the community. As far as the legal obligations go, there really aren’t any. If they had wanted, they could have moved to demolished the whole structure and built high-end condos and a parking garage as large as zoning would permit. A walk down Pearl Street will easily prove that. Then again, the structure is located in a historic district… but that hasn’t stopped significant buildings from coming down in the past, no matter their location.
In Hamlin Park however, that will not be happening. Instead, Ellicott Development is listening to the residents of the neighboring community and taking what they have to say into account. If they had done that in the first place, then perhaps the project could already be under way. They probably would have had an easier time at the Taxpayers Association as well, where the distrust was palpable to say the least. Gentrification is a growing issue here in Buffalo – an issue that is not lost on the residents of Hamlin Park. Whatever does happen after plans are finalized and set in stone, The Lutheran Church Home should stand as a testament to a community’s ability to have a say in its own future.
This latest plan is far removed from the original project that CMS was preparing to undertake in 2016, which would have witnessed the expansion of its current home on Elmwood Avenue (see here). While it would have been very exciting to see those plans rolled out in the Elmwood Village, this will now be a big feather in the cap for Hamlin Park.