Buffalo State expansion, police HQ redevelopment move forward

Feb 20, 2019

Two different projects in Buffalo took their first significant steps Tuesday, as the Common Council approved "designated developer status" for Buffalo State College and the city's former police headquarters.

The Common Council put its stamp of approval on Buffalo State taking control of Buffalo's impound lot on Dart Street and for developer Douglas Jemal to taking control of the city's former police headquarters on Franklin Street. This gives the college and the developer time to put together contracts to purchase the properties.

Council President Darius Pridgen said it is not clear what the college plans for the site, not far from the campus.

"Making them a designated developer, designated developer agreement which gives them 18 months, initially, to begin the process of what project they would like to see happen there," Pridgen said. "The district councilmember, today, or one of the councilmembers today felt it was important that there be a portion of community input."

In a written statement, College President Katherine Conway-Turner said it is a rare opportunity to expand the land-locked campus, without being specific about what is in the works. Where cars will go if the college takes over the impound lot is not clear.

North District Councilmember Joe Golombek teaches at Buffalo State, so he could not vote on the impound lot. However, Lovejoy Councilmember Richard Fontana modified the preliminary deal to require plans to go to the Black Rock-Riverside Good Neighbor Planning Alliance for neighborhood input.

Developer Douglas Jemal plans to convert Buffalo's former police headquarters into apartments.
Credit Chris Caya / WBFO News File Photo

Jemal plans a $3 million purchase and then a $30 million conversion of his building into 175 apartments, mostly market rate, but 10 percent affordable housing. Police have already moved into the new public safety complex at the old federal courthouse.

Fillmore District Councilmember David Franczyk said Jemal's interest is gratifying.

"How quickly this property found much interest," Franczyk said. "Mr. Jemal has put in an offer that has been brought before us, the gentleman that's doing the Seneca Tower. So it looks like he's putting together a good mix of uses for that building. I think it's also important that he pointed out that 10 percent of what he wants to carve out will be for affordable housing."

With rents rising rapidly in many parts of the city, affordable housing is seen as an increasingly important need, even potentially forcing developers to set aside some apartments in projects with some public money involved.