Buffalo, NY

Construction Begins on $29 Million School 75 Affordable Housing Development

J.M. Lesinski

Photo by J.M. Lesinski

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced the beginning of construction at the School 75 Apartments, a $29 million development now taking shape on Buffalo's East Side that aims to offer 47 affordable dwellings in the former public school, as well as 18 new single-family homes on vacant land parcels throughout the William-Emslie neighborhood.

"Our commitment to fighting homelessness and housing insecurity continues with this latest development that breathes new life into a historic Buffalo school," Hochul remarked of the construction’s beginning. "Public School 75 was once a place where generations of children were able to learn and get their start toward a bright future. Our investment will once again allow this location to be the centerpiece of a vibrant neighborhood where families have the chance to grow, and our veterans receive the support they deserve."

Of the apartments, 33 are going to be specifically set aside for veterans who have become homeless and those individuals disabled from their time in the military service. Additionally, 13 of the household are anticipated to receive U.S. Housing and Urban Development Continuum of Care rental subsidies made available through Erie County.

"Affordable housing is critical to stable communities and helps build strong neighborhoods,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz stated. “This project will be greatly beneficial to Buffalo's East Side, reusing an old building and bringing new life and activity to the area. It is a smart investment and one that will improve Erie County and Buffalo."

All 65 apartments are designed to be affordable to those with incomes below or at the sixty percent Area Median Income (AMI), while another 20 will receive on-site supportive services and rental subsidies made possible by the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI) and directed by the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (NYSOTDA).

"The start of construction of a $29 million repurposing of the Long Vacant P.S. 75, and 18 new buildings in Buffalo's Eastside, to provide affordable homes for homeless veterans and military service-disabled individuals serves as a shining example of the New York State Homes and Community Renewal's commitment to revitalizing our community,” commented NYS Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes of the project. “I applaud the Western New York Veterans' Housing Coalition, Norstar Development USA, and all the other community stakeholders whose leadership contributed to making this project a reality."

The current co-developers on the School 75 Apartments project are the Western New York Veterans' Housing Coalition and Norstar Development USA, L.P. When construction is complete, the former balcony and rear of the auditorium will also house the new corporate office of the Western New York Veterans' Housing Coalition.

"It has been 25 years since we dropped a shovel in the ground to add to our affordable housing efforts for our Veterans in need,” commented President & CEO of Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition Gigi Grizanti. “After many years of planning, we are excited for the opportunity to be able to transform this neighborhood and replace an empty school and vacant properties into a thriving building and add these beautiful homes for our Veterans and their families. These efforts would be possible with the confidence from our many funders and Norstar, our development partner. We are looking forward to becoming part of this growing community."

Holding its last classes in 1979, Public School 75 has remained vacant for over 20 years until now. The more historic brick exterior architectural elements will be preserved throughout the construction process, while windows and entry doors will be replaced and made to match the look of the originals as best as possible.

"Norstar is honored to have partnered with the WNY Veterans' Housing Coalition, Inc., our funding partners and all team members from New York State and locally who worked to make this project a reality,” Senior Project Manager of Norstar Development USA, L.P. Daniel Bellgraph stated of the project. “The School 75 project will have a transformative impact and provide much needed affordable housing in the community - particularly for those Veterans who bravely served our country."

The development of the project receives state financing through New York State Homes and Community Renewal's allocation of Federal and State Low Income Housing Tax Credits that are estimated to generate roughly $15.8 million in equity, $4.1 million through the Supportive Housing Opportunity Program, and $580,000 through the Community Investment Fund.

"This is a proud moment for Buffalo and the East Side,” remarked Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown of the project. “An old school is finding new life that will provide much needed affordable and supportive housing for veterans. We are plugging gaps in the neighborhood with new houses for families. I congratulate and thank the Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition, Norstar Development, New York State Homes and Community Renewal and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, for making this game-changing development possible."

At home, the city of Buffalo is delivering $850,000 to the School 75 project through the HOME program, while the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation awarded Federal and State Historic Tax Credits to the project, which is projected to create more than $6.7 million in equity.

"Originally constructed in 1925, the former Buffalo Public School 75 project is another great example of how historic preservation is breathing new life to Buffalo's East Side,” Commissioner of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Erik Kulleseid noted. “The Historic Tax Credit program is driving investments in historic structures, which helps lift local economies, create jobs, and promotes sustainable building practices in our state's cities and towns."

Additionally, the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) will make available an estimated $72,000 through its own low-rise new construction program. "NYSERDA is pleased to provide support for this project, which will help ensure that Buffalo-area low-income residents and veterans have access to safe, healthy, and comfortable housing with energy efficient features that provide enhanced performance and energy bill savings,” NYSERDA President & CEO Doreen M. Harris remarked. “Maintaining the historic character of existing buildings while equipping them with modern amenities that use the latest clean energy technology to provide affordable housing is a win-win in the State's efforts to ensure all New Yorkers benefit from the transition to economy-wide neutrality outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act."

The most recent addition to New York state’s $20 billion five-year housing plan with the goal of making housing accessible and combating homelessness though the construction or preservation of over 100,000 homes, the School 75 Apartments project also follows the plan’s goal to preserve 6,000 homes with supportive services.

"The pandemic laid bare the need for affordable and supportive housing, especially for New Yorkers already struggling with housing insecurity,” said HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas of the project. “Through our partnership with the Western New York Veterans' Housing Coalition and Norstar Development, this $29 million development expands housing opportunities on Buffalo's East Side for families and veterans and adds new vitality to a long-vacant but beautiful historic school building. By transforming underutilized spaces into affordable housing, we can better serve our urban communities."

Going back to 2011, the New York State Homes and Community Renewal has now financed more than $307 million in projects in Buffalo, creating or preserving an estimated more than 3,200 affordable homes.

"The Public School 75 Apartments are yet another example of New York's investment in affordable, supportive housing,” said Senator Tim Kennedy of the project. “This project will preserve and repurpose an East Side educational institution, providing a space to call home for veterans across Buffalo. This construction milestone marks significant progress, and I look forward to seeing this development change the lives of so many who have sacrificed so much for our country."

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I have worked as a professional journalist for over five years now, covering the arts, music, food, politics, and culture up and down both coasts of the United States. I have a B.A. in English from SUNY Fredonia with minors in Psychology and Creative Writing, as well as an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from California State University, Fresno.

Buffalo, NY

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