A vacant parking lot has officially been transformed into affordable housing for older adults as part of the Gates Circle redevelopment.
People Inc., as well as the state and city officials who helped fund the $11.6 million project, unveiled Linwood Lafayette Senior Apartments with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday.
The 37-unit complex at the corner of Linwood and Lafayette avenues is for mixed-income adults ages 55 and over who make 30% to 100% of the area’s median income. There’s seven units set aside for older adults with developmental disabilities.
The complex was built on the vacant parking lot of the now-closed Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital and is part of the planned $200 million redevelopment of the former hospital property, which is also set to include condos and market-rate apartments and townhouses.
“Individuals, whether they’re seniors or have disabilities, deserve to live in these communities as well,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, noting there’s often neighborhood opposition to affordable housing projects. “So we will open our hearts and open our doors.”
New York State Homes and Community Renewal, the state’s public housing agency, provided about $10 million for the complex as part of its five-year, $20 billion plan to build or preserve 100,000 units of affordable housing.
The state has invested $763 million to build or preserve more than 4,400 affordable homes and apartments in Western New York since 2011, including nearly $197 million in the city of Buffalo.
People Inc., a non-profit health agency that services more than 10,000 people in Western New York, had relied on federal funds via the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for its previous housing complexes.
“Unfortunately, those funds had dried up and the need for housing for older adults still continued,” said People Inc. President and CEO Rhonda Frederick, explaining the organization turned to New York State Homes and Community Renewal.
In 2017, People Inc. purchased the vacant parking lot across the street from the main Gates Circle hospital property from owner and developer TM Montante, which has had several setbacks in its own $150 million redevelopment plan for Gates Circle.
TM Montante then constructed Linwood Lafayette Senior Apartments for People Inc., finishing up this summer.
“I think you can all agree that in the end we ended up with a fabulous place,” Frederick told attendees at Monday’s ceremony.
Frederick acknowledged there were “heated discussions” with neighbors about what the complex should look like.
“It wasn’t controversy, but it was making sure architecturally it fit into the neighborhood,” she told WBFO. “We spent a lot of time with the neighbors on design, going up and down Linwood, looking at homes, replicating that.”
She feels the final product — a three-story, red-brick building equipped with individual balconies — fits nicely into the surrounding Linwood Preservation District.
Laura Bell, a resident of Linwood Lafayette Senior Apartments, said she likes that the complex offers balconies, parking, safety features and a short distance to shopping locations.
She said she moved in after many heart-to-heart conversations with her youngest daughter, in which they decided “it was time for mom to have a different place.”
“As transitions go, I’m glad this is one I can smile about,” she said.
Frederick said the demand for affordable senior housing in Buffalo is high. She only expects that to increase as the baby boomer generation continues to age.
“Our wait lists are huge,” she said, “and the need is going to continue as people are living longer, having incredibly fulfilling lives as older adults. This is the kind of place they want to be. They want to be in a vibrant neighborhood.”
In addition the $10 million from New York State Homes and Community Renewal, the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities provided $1 million. The city of Buffalo also provided $265,000.