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BY BUFFALO RISING
The development team chosen to renovate the Marine Drive Apartments complex has decided the best approach is to start over. In October 2021, the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA) finalized terms and signed an initial agreement with a team comprised of The Habitat Company and Duvernay + Brooks to renovate and upgrade the waterfront complex. The 616-unit family public housing development along the Buffalo River is the last remaining New York State public housing development in BMHA’s portfolio.
After exploring renovation and expansion options for the seven-building, 72-year-old complex, the developers decided that tearing down and replacing the apartments made more financial and practical sense than trying to upgrade the existing buildings. The $400 million new development would contain more, and larger units than the complex currently contains.
The Buffalo News has the scoop:
BMHA is committed to maintaining at least 616 units as it has currently, and to accommodating all of the existing Marine Drive tenants.
But officials ideally want more. They’re anticipating a mix of four-story, six-story and 10-story buildings, along with townhome-style structures. And they’re planning for more usable passive and active greenspace, with places to relax and for children to play.
They also expect a different configuration of one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments, to rightsize the complex for its current population. That’s because there’s more demand for one-bedroom units right now, but the existing buildings have more two-bedroom apartments.
A design for the new complex is not expected to be finalized until late-summer and the plans would need to go through the City’s development review process.
The first phase of new construction will take place on the development’s surface parking lot, with an anticipated start by early 2024. Pending the resident-driven design process, it’s anticipated the first group of residents will relocate to new units in late 2025. The existing towers will be demolished as they are vacated to clear the way for the next phase of construction.
With the new-build strategy, Marine Drive residents will be able to move directly from their current apartments to their new units. Under the original renovation plan, they would have needed to move twice, first to a vacant unit while their apartment was under construction, then back when the update was complete. Other benefits of new construction may include:
· Integration of covered parking for residents
· Construction of a variety of housing types, including accessible units
· Options to build more than the current 616 units
· Ability to increase the square footage of every type of apartment
· Options to create space for retail, and health and human services, as well as other community spaces
· Reconfiguration of Marine Drive to create new street and green spaces
Until there are preliminary designs and a timetable for what will be a multi-phase project, likely to not see completion until 2029.
The Habitat/Duvernay + Brooks team was selected as the developer for Marine Drive from a large group of national and local firms who responded to the Housing Authority’s request for qualifications issued in 2020.
D+B is a state-certified woman-owned business and both firms have strong track records on utilization of local minority and women-owned and small businesses for their projects.