One of Buffalo's oldest public housing projects is being touted by a city lawmaker as a possible site for a new downtown football stadium, and he wants to begin early discussions.
Ellicott Council Member Brian C. Davis thinks the site of the aging Perry Projects might be an ideal location for an NFL facility, given its proximity to downtown, the Outer Harbor, the State Thruway and a proposed casino. The complex is bounded by South Park Avenue and Chicago, Scott and Hamburg streets.
Davis, who represents much of downtown, concedes such a massive project would hinge on many factors, including luring investors. But he said he thinks tearing down a housing project that he grew up in and making room for a professional sports complex would be a major development coup.
The notion of building a downtown stadium surfaced earlier this month when ex-Bill Jim Kelly mentioned the idea in a radio interview. Kelly was talking about trying to form an investor group to keep the Bills in the region after Ralph Wilson is gone.
Davis said many structures in the Perry Projects have already been torn down in recent years. About 661 units remain occupied.
"It would be almost foolish to put a stadium right on the Outer Harbor," Davis said Tuesday. "What we need to talk about is building a stadium closer to the downtown core."
Davis said a spinoff benefit of such a project would be relocating 941 residents to better quality housing. He planned to file a Council resolution todaythat seeks to begin city dialogue on the proposal.
The chairman of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority said officials are carefully weighing the Perry Projects' future. Michael Seaman said the housing complex is close to the proposed site of a major downtown casino.
"But I'm not sure the footprint of the Perry Projects would be big enough for a stadium," Seaman said.
Davis acknowledged that the plan would likely mean acquiring about 40 additional properties in the area.
Leonard Williams, who represents tenants on the Housing Authority board, said any plan to demolish the Perry Projects would have to include a unit-for-unit housing replacement plan at an alternative site.
"I would not accept losing a single residential unit," Williams said. "That would be a nonstarter."
Williams also stressed the importance of getting input from tenants at Perry Projects before proceeding with any relocation plan.
Housing Authority Executive Director Dawn E. Sanders said Davis has contacted her office about his plan. She said it's premature to comment on the concept, because housing officials are working on a long-term strategic plan that would assess all properties owned by the authority.
"People have ideas, but we have to look at them from the standpoint of how they fit into a strategic plan," Sanders said.
Mayor Byron W. Brown's communications director said Davis had yet to brief the mayor on his vision. But Peter K. Cutler seemed to downplay the notion.
"The mayor has always supported examining the possibility of a new football stadium in the city, while recognizing that the probability is not great," Cutler said.
For one thing, Cutler said, a major public investment has been made in Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park in recent years.
Still, Brown hasn't been shy in expressing his long-term desire to see a new sports stadium in the city. At his Inaugural Ball in early 2006, he gave revelers a poster he commissioned that captured his vision for the city. One icon depicted a new stadium, and Brown suggested it might even be used for professional football. The mayor, only two months into his term at that time, acknowledged that such a project wouldn't likely happen in his first four years.
"But we have to be bold in our vision," Brown said.