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BY JAMES FINK
The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority no longer plans to renovate the aging Marine Drive Apartments and instead will demolish its seven buildings on the waterfront and replace them with modern units.
The proposal for the $400 million project came following a year-long review of the complex by the development team selected three years ago by BMHA: Duvernay + Brooks LLC from New York City, Pittsburgh-based Urban Design Associates and Chicago’s the Habitat Co.
BMHA executive director Gillian Brown said the change of plans was based on structural issues with the 1951-era buildings. A total rehab may have exceeded $400 million.
“There is not a single system at Marine Drive that is working well,” Brown said.
The complex is one of three BMHA-owned apartment complexes targeted for a rebuild or renovations. The others are the Commodore Perry Apartments on Perry Street and the Shaffer Village Apartments on Ontario Street.
Duvernay + Brooks, Urban Design Associates and the Habitat Co. are only working on the Marine Drive Apartment project, which will be done in phases from 2024 to 2029. Funding would come from state and local sources as well as the BMHA, Brown said.
The new buildings – still in design – will be constructed on a surface parking lot and then each current building will be razed after the new structure is completed. The complex is on the edge of Canalside and Erie Basin Marina.
“What nobody wants is residents hopscotching around because of the project,” said Jeffrey Head, Habitat Co. vice president.
The developers plan to work with residents on public space designs for the 18-acre site.
“We want the input,” said Brian Heegar, Duvernay + Brooks managing director.
Depending on the design, the apartment total could grow from 616 to more than 700 units, Heeger said.
Tentative design plans include some townhouse units, low-rise buildings and some with four stories, six stories and 10 stories. Rochester’s SWBR Inc. is handling the design work.
“What was built in 1951 was designed to warehouse people,” Head said. “We want to develop a true residential community.”