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Sporting a new look at an old school on the East Side

Buffalo News - 6/5/2024

Jun. 5—One of the city's newest affordable housing developments is now open.

A Rochester-area nonprofit agency specializing in helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities has completed its conversion of an East Side public school into 46 affordable apartments, including eight that are reserved for disabled people, with access to onsite support services.

Webster-based CDS Life Transitions and CDS Monarch spent $19 million to convert the vacant former School 78 at 321 Olympic Ave. into the Olympic Avenue Apartments.

The project — which also includes space for community programs and services, as well as offices for CDS and WNY Independent Living — has 43 one- and three two-bedroom units targeted at households earning at or below 60% of the area median income.

"CDS Monarch saw that there was a great need in the Buffalo community for affordable multifamily and supportive housing, and we set out to meet that need," said Andrew Sewnauth, CEO of CDS Life Transitions and executive director of CDS Monarch.

Built in 1927 at 321 Olympic Ave., next to the Kensington Expressway, the 81,563-square-foot building most recently housed a Montessori school program before it closed. It is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. The city selected CDS as designated developer for the project, which was originally approved in December 2018 with a targeted completion of 2020, but was repeatedly delayed by financing challenges.

Historic preservation work included restoring the brick and stone masonry, repairing historic windows, a decorative metal railing and interior plaster, and removing suspended ceilings that hid the historic floor height. The auditorium was turned into a community center where local nonprofit organizations can provide services for low-income residents and members of the community.

It also includes a playground, community garden, community room and an exercise room to make the area more family friendly.

The project was funded by $9.6 million in low-income housing tax credits, $2.75 million in federal and state historic tax credits, a $2.4 million investment from New York Homes and Community Renewal's Housing Trust Funds, $750,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's federal Housing Trust Fund, $500,000 from the state Better Buffalo Fund and $46,000 from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

"Affordable housing is a critical need in Erie County, and the completion of the Olympic Avenue Apartments is great news, adding much-needed living spaces for low-income households and individuals with disabilities," Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said.


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Getting schooled

Two local school districts in Erie and Niagara counties are kicking off significant renovation and upgrade projects.

The Hamburg Central School District is launching upgrades at its Armor, Boston and Charlotte elementary schools and at Hamburg High School as part of its building enhancement effort. Work will focus on mechanical system upgrades, interior wall refinishing, classroom modernizations and enhancements to auditoriums, with new seating, flooring and fresh paint.

Meanwhile, the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District will begin renovating the Niagara Wheatfield High School, Edward Town Middle School, Colonial Village Elementary School and the district bus garage, starting in early June. The project includes interior improvements to hallways and staircases, ADA ramps, interior foundation, concrete and base work, ceiling and structural reinforcement and reconfiguration of interior spaces.

Both projects are being handled by Concept Construction Corp.


It's electric!

In an effort to advance its plans for the Northland Corridor, the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. last week approved a contract of up to $6.46 million with Frey Electric Construction Co. to purchase and install new electrical equipment in an old substation.

The upgrade of the aging facility at 644 Northland Ave. is a key part of the third phase of redeveloping the former industrial zone on Buffalo'sEast Side, which is now home to the Northland Workforce Training Center, Buffalo Manufacturing Works, and several light industrial or advanced manufacturing firms.

The enhancements are needed to ensure that tenants at Northland will have enough electrical power to service their operations.

Frey beat out a competing bid from Eaton Corp. The contract would be reimbursed with grant funds from Empire State Development Corp. and the federal Economic Development Agency.

The project originally called for installation of a community solar array and battery storage system along with the substation to create a microgrid for the neighborhood and provide capacity for future growth. But BUDC officials said they were told by National Grid that "current standards" would not allow that combination, and the projected costs exceeded what BUDC had anticipated, so officials pulled back their plans, for now.


Metro Roberts expands

WNY Metro Roberts Realty, an independent real estate agency owned by Jim Roberts, is expanding into Niagara County for the first time with a new office in Lockport.

The brokerage, which already has 10 offices around Western New York, will be opening its newest location this summer on the first floor of Suite 38 in Lockview Plaza on Main Street. That follows the opening in summer 2023 of an office in Warsaw in Wyoming County, which marked the firm's first office outside Erie County.

Metro Roberts, which ranks among the five largest local brokerages, has 370 licensed real estate agents.



A new look is coming to the Old Editions bookstore.

Two local community colleges have new presidents.

A Brookings report predicts strong growth for Buffalo Niagara manufacturers.

The senior vice president of marketing strategy and public relations is leaving her position at 43 North.

Rainbow Air is making progress on Niagara Falls helicopter tourism facility.

West Seneca presses Pyramid to sell Seneca Mall site.

Buffalo remains essential to HSBC's everyday operations, said president and CEO of HSBC North America Holdings.

National Grid is looking for a big increase in residential electric rates.

The Hauptman-Woodward research institute is merging with UB.

HSBC says its Buffalo Niagara office consolidation is complete.

Shake Shack is coming to Amherst.

Schumer is worried about a Canadian immigration policy snarling bridge traffic.



Five reads from Buffalo Next:

1. 43North winner Bounce Imaging earns a shot at more work with Department of Defense.

2. Where is all the steel for the new Buffalo Bills stadium coming from?

3. 'It's terrible': Family Dollar closures will erase six stores from the East Side.

4. Do personal seat licenses hold their value? Here's what's happened in other NFL markets.

5. How one SUNY school stands out for its efforts to get students who dropped out of college to come back to class.


The Buffalo Next team gives you the big picture on the region's economic revitalization. Email tips to or reach Buffalo Next Editor David Robinson at 716-849-4435.

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