The Buffalo City Mission, fresh off its failed attempt to relocate its main downtown facility to a giant vacant warehouse in Larkinville, has hired a local real estate brokerage to find a new home that could replace the aging East Tupper Street facility.
The nonprofit organization has hired McGuire Development Co. to help it locate and acquire a new property in the city.
The new location would take the place of the current Men’s Community Center at 100 E. Tupper St., but officials hope it will enable the organization to expand its long-term options to meet the goal of reducing homelessness.
“We are very excited to be partnering with McGuire Development in the search for our new home,” said Stuart L. Harper, executive director of the City Mission.
Specifically, the goal is to move the emergency shelter for men, a short-term transitional housing program, a community outreach center, and the City Mission’s administrative offices, all of which are running out of space in the current location. But officials also want to create long-term affordable housing, with one- and two-bedroom apartments that its clients could eventually occupy.
Additionally, Harper said, the outdated design of the present site means that women and children who come in for meals either mix with the adult male residents, which is not desirable, or wait in the chapel instead of the community room.
“When women and children come in, we don’t want them commingled with our male population,” he said. “In a new space, we’d be able to better segment that.”
Besides McGuire, the City Mission’s project team also includes Carmina Wood Morris PC as the architect and R&P Oak Hill as the construction contractor.
Harper said the City Mission will stay in the city and close to the core, because many of the people it serves walk or bike to it. It also has to be on a bus route. But it doesn’t have to be downtown, especially as that area has been expanding in all directions anyway. The search will include properties within a 1.5-mile radius of the downtown bus terminal.
Plans also call for more community involvement in the process. Once potential sites are identified, officials will meet with the appropriate Common Council members and representatives of religious and grass-roots organizations to “make sure they understand the vision of what we’re trying to do,” said James F. Dentinger, president of McGuire.
The City Mission has not yet put its current building on the market, but Harper said he’s not worried because it’s near the burgeoning Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, where land values have been soaring. Already, he said, “we’ve had phone calls of interest for a while now.”
The hiring of McGuire marks the City Mission’s second attempt to relocate in recent months. In July, the organization announced plans to spend $42 million to renovate the former Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. warehouse at 545 Swan St. But the project fell through a month later, as the price became too much for the organization. The total cost soared over $50 million.
“It got to a point where the project cost was becoming out of sight with reality,” Harper said. “That became ridiculous to us for what we were going to end up with.”
It also may have faced some opposition from nearby businesses or residents, who were concerned about a homeless shelter so close to them.