Brownfield remediation financing slowing proposed development on Buffalo Forge site

May 30, 2017

Building a development can seem relatively simple: find a piece of land, find an architect to provide a design, then build. In reality, it is far more complicated and why a major development on Broadway on the edge of downtown Buffalo will not be underway until early next year.

For years, the former site of Buffalo Forge has sat a heavily contaminated large field of green grass, watched by thousands of people who drove by or lived in the neighborhood. Only a few blocks from downtown and within walking distance of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the local economic turnaround created the vision for The Forge on Broadway.

Rhonda Ricks is one of the developers of the proposed project. She said the development is going through a process - and not a quick one.

"This is the first step in the process that we have to go through in order to get to phase two, with the tax credit," said Ricks. "This the thing that they want to see, an approval from the Planning Board as well as the Common Council."

There are also the economic realities in that mix. While building and selling the homes seems like a way to raise quick cash in the construction schedule, Ricks says it is more important to get tenants for the commercial space.

"It helps us to get the little portion with the commercial done first, because without that there is no money to do the clean up or the actual home ownership," she said. "So it's very important that we get that."

That is commercial space in an area without much, while the developers are getting their paperwork and permission to go into the state's brownfield program, which provides tax credit financing for the deal.

"It's a great project," said Ricks. "I saw the property. I lived over there in that community for over 20 years and passed by it when there were still buildings there with trees coming out of them. And then I saw where it just became what I would say was a blank canvas."

The project is set to meet a number of goals, including affordable rents in the 159 apartments, 25 townhouses and five single homes across the street from neighboring single homes. There also will be a wellness atmosphere, which includes a soccer field built over a parking lot.