After some final tinkering with the design, the Buffalo Planning Board on Monday approved a massive graduate student housing complex at Main Street and Hertel Avenue. Digging may start within weeks on an environmental cleanup, clearing the way for the complex.
The unusually shaped long and thin main building will be built on land used for contaminating industrial work for more than a century. The complex butts against a former main rail line.
Costs aren't quite clear yet, however paperwork filed with the city Planning Board suggests it might be as high as $40 million, although lead developer David Freeman of Utah-based Blackfish Investments said it will be closer to $30 million. The complex is slated to open in late summer of 2020 for the opening of classes.
Architect Michael Conroe said the final changes were not major.
"We improved the landscaping. We put more trees on the site rather than putting them out on the city property," Conroe said. "We changed the exterior panel. So it was originally a fiber cement panel. Now it's an aluminum composite panel. That's really the extent of the change. We eliminated balconies. So we left the insets, but eliminated the actual balcony portion."
The Planning Board decided the changes did not require the project to go back through the public hearing process.
Freeman said this is a good market and site on the Metro Rail.
"Two-hundred yards from our front door is the subway and there is direct to Canisius, the medical campus, there to South Campus and there is, of course, the connector out to the main UB," he said, "but the other thing that we saw is that Hertel and Main is where the social life is."
The site selection reflects LaSalle Station on the Metro Rail only a short walk away and a Metro Bus stop out front. Freeman sees a real opportunity.
"I've noted the large majority of the students are living in substandard type housing, especially around the South Campus, and we felt like that with the growth of the medical school campus downtown and all the rest that there is a need especially for the older, graduate-type students," Freeman said.
Freeman said the building will be mostly one-bedroom and studio apartments, with some two-bedrooms. Rents are slated to be $1,100-$1,200 a month, with some running higher. There are slated to be 320 apartments, with up to 360 beds.