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A view of the Marine Drive Apartments, JOED VIERA.
By Jacob Tierney – Reporter, Buffalo Business First
Nov 1, 2023
Managing one of the largest projects in the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority's history would be a daunting task. Managing three, simultaneously, is the biggest challenge the authority has ever faced.
"This is the most exciting time to be involved at the housing authority that I think has ever happened," said Executive Director Gillian Brown. "We're at the beginning of the most massive building project this city has ever seen."
The authority and its Bridges Development affiliate are preparing for major redevelopments at three apartment communities — Commodore Perry Homes, Marine Drive Apartments and Shaffer Village. The work will span about 40 acres of property and more than 2,000 apartment units.
It will involve tearing down many of the existing buildings — some of BMHA's oldest — and replacing them with new structures, a significant departure for the authority.
"We spent 80 years not tearing stuff down, and a lot of our older projects were rehabbed over and over," Brown said.
In order to juggle three simultaneous projects, the authority has partnered with three private development teams.
Pennrose, a developer based in Philadelphia, will tackle Perry Homes.
A view of the Commodore Perry apartments, JOED VIERA.
The Habitat Co. of Chicago and Duvernay and Brooks of New York City will develop Marine Drive. JHM Group of Connecticut and Penman Development of Williamsville will take on Shaffer Village.
Each team has its own workflow, culture and priorities, so communication and flexibility is key, said Nadine Marrero, president of Bridges Development.
"It's interesting to work with three different personalities every week," she said.
This need for communication also extends to government agencies. The BMHA has built up closer ties with the city and state over the last few years, which has proved essential for getting these projects funded and off the ground.
"We have this shared vision," Marrero said. "These neighborhoods have been developed in a very collaborative way."
The authority has not publicly put a pricetag on the entire project.
The first phase of the Perry Homes redevelopment will cost an estimated $200 million, according to documents submitted to the city Planning Board. It will see the demolition of 24 buildings on Perry Street and South Park Avenue, as well as the construction of 27 new buildings with a total of 405 apartment units.
The city approved the project in July. Demolition is expected to start by early next year, and construction is expected to take at least three years.
Redeveloping the Marine Drive Apartments would cost about $400 million and take about eight years. The seven existing 12-story apartment buildings will be demolished in phases and replaced with several new buildings with 7738 affordable apartments.
Preliminary plans were approved by the Buffalo Planning Board this month. Work is expected to continue through 2031.
Detailed plans for Shaffer Village have yet to be submitted to the city. Early discussions focused on changing the layout and making the community part of the surrounding neighborhood.
For all three projects, the goal is to make each complex feel less like isolated apartment buildings and more like vibrant neighborhoods, Marrero said.
Though the existing plans are expected to last BMHA into next decade, the authority's ambitions don't end there. These three communities were chosen because they're some of the largest and most dilapidated, but many smaller BMHA properties are slated for similar revamps further down the line, according to Marrero.
The authority has been talking about these projects for years. Brown said he's excited for 2024, when demolition at Commodore Perry is well underway and the public can finally see years of planning in action.
"That's when people will know that we really mean it, that we're not just talking," he said.