The gears have started turning on a long awaited project on Buffalo's East Side. Local leaders announced the start of construction on a $31 million dollar affordable housing project Wednesday afternoon. Two mixed-use buildings will be constructed over the next year and a half on Jefferson Avenue.
They will include 89 apartments, 16 of which will be set aside for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Developer Nick Sinatra said the idea for this project started about four years ago while he was riding his bike.
“I used to live right at Main and Ferry,” said Sinatra. “So I’m biking through the neighborhood and I’m driving down and I see these four blocks right next to Johnnie B Wiley (sports complex). I say, ‘Huh. This is really interesting. We’re doing a lot on Main Street. I wonder if we can push beyond Main Street. East on Main Street and do some development.’ So I call Dave Pawlak from CSS Construction as the first building block. And I say, ‘Dave this is a pretty interesting series of blocks isn’t it?’ And he says, ‘Yeah it really is.’ I think we can do something here.”
Sinatra said not long after they sat down with the clergy on Buffalo’s East Side to come up with the plans over a four to five month period.
“This has been the most collaborative development I have ever done,” he said. “It started in the right place and we think it’s going to end in the right place.”
Sinatra says this is only the beginning of what they plan to do on Jefferson Ave and that they wanted to set the bar for development on the East Side.
“We have very strong women and minority hiring goals,” Sinatra said. “Not just for who is going to build it, but who is going to occupy it afterwards. That’s really important to us and we’re going to meet those goals.”
The ground floor of the buildings will hold retail space and a People Inc. recruitment office. Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes said having People Inc. physically present on the East Side is important moving forward.
“People Incorporated is not new to the East Side of Buffalo,” she said. “But they are new to this particular area right here and I think it would be a huge benefit to the community.”
Peoples-Stokes said this development will create a critical mass of people that will drive business. With the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus less than a mile away, it’s likely some of their workers will end up as tenants.
New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities Director Ellen Hardy said it’s inspiring to see the collaboration at play.
“This is where we need to go. This is our future. This is the way we all need to be thinking so that we can make sure that people with developmental disabilities are embraced and a part of our community and have all the opportunities that you and I have,” she said.
The apartments will include one and two-bedroom units. Sinatra & Company will sub-lease the commercial space in the building for rental. Income will go toward paying for the buildings.