The remaining Shoreline Apartments have been an eyesore in downtown Buffalo the last few years, but the vacant complex will soon come down to make way for new housing.
Officials from the city and Norstar Development, the owner of the property, announced Wednesday that demolition will begin Thursday and last until about Memorial Day. Crews will then build an 18-building, 166-unit mixed-income housing complex over the course of about two years.
The news comes after a tumultuous, nearly three-year delay.
“I know that this was not always pleasant for the community or for us,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. “We did put a lot of pressure on Norstar, they always answered our calls and I think this is going to be a project of affordable housing that will be very beneficial to the residents of the city of Buffalo.”
Norstar tore down some of the nearly 50-year-old complex in 2015 and built 48 new units in its place in 2017, but doing the same for the remaining 20 buildings has proved more difficult.
The city Common Council approved demolition and construction back in November 2017, but a lawsuit delayed the project.
The last tenant to leave the complex, John Schmidt, and preservationist Terry Robinson filed an Article 78 against the demolition. Shoreline Apartments were designed by noted architect Paul Rudolph.
However, a state judge dismissed the suit last month.
“This has been an incredibly difficult project,” said Norstar Senior Vice President Linda Goodman. “I’ve been working on this for about 10 of the 20 years I’ve been with Norstar in Buffalo and we’re very excited we can start moving forward.”
Despite Shoreline Apartments’ history, Goodman said the structure “never worked from the beginning.” The complex had numerous maintenance issues.
“The construction was flawed, they weren’t good housing and everybody recognized it,” she said. “It’s time we moved on and built some outstanding housing.”
The litigation had held up not only the demolition, but state dollars to fund the construction. Now the $34 million project can be funded by the state’s public housing authority, Homes and Community Renewal. The agency is carrying out the state’s five-year plan to invest $20 billion in building or preserving 100,000 units of low-income housing across the state.
The general contractor for the project is NK Star Construction, which Goodman described as a partnership between the Norstar and a construction company.
The demolition will also include asbestos removal. Officials said the city Department of Permit and Inspection Services will have an inspector on-site daily to ensure work is being done in accordance to demolition and environmental standards.
“I can assure you — there’s going to be a minimal amount of problems out in the street,” said Buffalo Permit and Inspection Services Commissioner James Comerford of concerns about dust and debris affecting nearby neighborhoods. “The only thing you’ll see is trucks going out, taking material to the dump site.”
Homeless people have used the vacant Shoreline Apartments as shelter. There’s been two fires there in just the last two weeks.
City officials said police did a walk through of the structure Tuesday night to make sure no one was still inside. There will be another walk through Thursday before demolition begins and more checks throughout the process, they added.
“We’re not just coming in here to take anybody out or make arrests,” said Buffalo Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia. “We’re looking to get them services and help.”
Goodman said former Shoreline Apartments tenants can re-apply to live in the new structure.