1490 Jefferson Avenue had a long history in Buffalo’s East Side community, before it sat vacant for the last six years or so. Now it’s seeing new life as Bellamy Commons – an affordable housing complex with commercial space and room for a future museum.
“Different from any apartment I’ve ever lived in” is how Linda Murray described her and her husband’s new apartment at Bellamy Commons.
“All of them, the walls have always been white,” Murray recalled of her former residences on the West Side. “I came in here and these were different colors – I just fell in love. I come in here, and every day it seems different when I come in here. It’s like, I want to come home now. It makes a big difference when you live in something that you really love.”
City, state and federal officials, along with housing developers, joined residents like Murray in celebrating the official opens of Bellamy Commons on Friday.
“We opened up in July of this year and, within a week, we were fully occupied,” said businessman and developer Herb Bellamy, Jr. “So it just shows that housing is needed. Goods and services is needed. And we’re just trying to bring that more to the communities.”
For Bellamy, the complex holds a special, personal history that began with his father. After nearly 60 years serving as the home for an assortment of industrial manufacturers, the building was converted by Bellamy’s father – Herb Bellamy, Sr. – into a social services center. Under the name 1490 Enterprises, it became an integral piece of the East Side community, and an important part of the Jefferson Avenue commercial corridor. Bellamy said when the company closed its doors about six years ago, another vision was needed that would service the community.
The 30 affordable housing units that make up Bellamy Commons offer residents like Murray new appliances, laminate hard-wood style floors, central air, storage space, on-site laundry facilities, and a community room, along with a playground for children and off-street parking. The building also has commercial space, and will house the future Buffalo Black Achievers museum, set to open in February 2017.
As an affordable housing complex, Bellamy Commons units are priced at roughly 50 to 60 percent of the area median income for Erie County. With assistance from low income housing tax credits, half of the units are at the 50 percent rate, and the other half at 60 percent. Roughtly half the unit’s residents rely on Section Eight assistance.
New York State Commissioner of Homes and Community Renewal Jamie Rubin said Bellamy Commons is an example of how important it is to ensure the city’s development boom includes residents of all income levels.
“We have a responsibility as a state and as public investors to build affordable housing, but also to understand the markets that we’re investing in,” said Rubin. “So when people start talking about things like gentrification and making sure that we’re developing or making available housing for the most low income residents, we need to balance our resources to make sure we’re doing that.”
Rubin said the state is looking at additional opportunities for development in the East Side community to ensure the needs of all areas of the city are being met. Bellamy echoed that note of progress, saying projects up and down the Jefferson corridor are already in the works. And while many long-time residents of the East Side seek to reclaim the area’s heyday, Bellamy sees projects like Bellamy Commons as the start of something new.
“What was old was great in its time, but it’s a new time,” said Bellamy. “Technology was different. We were in an industrial revolution, now we’re in an informational stage, so who knows where this is all going to take off to. I’m looking forward to all the new growth and the renaissance of Buffalo as we’re growing.”