Owner eyes expansion of Pilgrim Village housing complex - The Buffalo News

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Owner eyes expansion of Pilgrim Village housing complex

The owner of a 90-unit, subsidized housing development on the edge of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is proposing an ambitious, multi-phase expansion to serve the growing medical campus.

Mark Trammell would replace the existing apartments in his Pilgrim Village housing complex with at least 380 units offering a mix of market-rate, subsidized and student housing, and he promised that current tenants would not be displaced by the project.

Details, including cost estimates, are still being worked out, he said.

“My situation is very complicated,” he said. “I am sure I can do something that satisfies all the masters. I am mindful of the issues. It’s important to make a statement, to do something that hasn’t been done before.”

The rapidly expanding Medical Campus is expected to create a need for more housing. In addition to increased staff, the relocation of the University at Buffalo’s medical school will bring an additional 180 students to the Medical Campus each year.

Trammell discussed his plans for the Pilgrim Village complex, just north of the Medical Campus, as the future of the McCarley Gardens low-income housing development, located on the south end of the campus, remains up in the air.

St. John Baptist Church, which built McCarley Gardens in 1978, agreed in 2010 to sell the 150-unit complex for $15 million to the University at Buffalo. The sale has been held up pending federal approval of a relocation plan for McCarley Gardens’ tenants, but UB says it remains interested in purchasing the property.

Pilgrim Village was built two years after McCarley Gardens, in 1980, by Trammell’s father, Wilbur.

The 12-acre development is located off Ellicott Street, between Best and East North streets. It is home to about 250 people. Rents are government-subsidized, and residents pay on a sliding scale, based on income.

Like McCarley Gardens, Pilgrim Village looks well-maintained, with single- and multi-bedroom, townhome rental units situated on manicured grounds with lots of green space.

As the Medical Campus has thrived in recent years, Pilgrim Village has drawn interest from buyers.

Kaleida Health for five years paid an undisclosed amount for an option to purchase the property as a site for a new children’s hospital or other facility and was prepared to pay what the younger Trammell described as a “huge” amount of money.

But Kaleida let its Pilgrim Village option expire in December 2012 without a purchase. Kaleida found alternative sites on the Medical Campus for its new children’s hospital and a vascular center, and was not interested in acquiring the site, said Joseph Kessler, Kaleida’s executive vice president and chief financial officer.

“We decided to move to the current site, so we said we don’t need the option,” Kessler said.

Trammell, however, believes Pilgrim Village is strategically located to take advantage of the booming Medical Campus, particularly if McCarley Gardens is sold to UB and no longer used as a housing complex.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to become the residence of choice,” he said.

He said he is putting in place a multi-phase demolition, renovation and construction plan that would ultimately expand the housing development. McGuire Development is co-developer on the project.

The first three-year phase would see 32 existing units demolished and replaced with 80 senior units, while the 58 remaining units would undergo a $3 million renovation, according to a project outline. The developer would add 300 units on the same cleared section of the property for students, medical staff and others. Over time, if demand dictates, more of the older units would be demolished and replaced with new units, with at least 20 percent set aside for below-market rents.

Trammell said the development also would feature an underground parking garage as well as space for nonprofit arts organizations, including dance, music and possibly live theater groups.

Trammell said some tenants may have to be temporarily relocated at Pilgrim Village’s expense while construction is underway. However, he added, they can return to Pilgrim Village as new or newly renovated units are available.

“The people here, the current residents, will never be ignored,” Trammell said. “There will be no permanent displacement.”

Trammell did not say when he hopes to begin construction.

At Pilgrim Village, residents said they’ve heard rumors, but nothing official, that there had been talk of selling Pilgrim Village as part of the Medical Campus expansion.

Greg Abrams, who has lived at Pilgrim Village two years and works at Sisters Hospital, said he has heard the rumors but isn’t worried. “I’m planning to buy a house in less than a year,” he said.

Another resident, Lesha Jones, a yearlong resident, has not heard anything about future plans for Pilgrim Village. She wouldn’t want to move, she said, especially because she is hoping the Medical Campus will provide jobs.

“I’m in the health care field myself,” she said.

Venus Carr, a 10-year tenant of Pilgrim Village, said she is very excited about the new development taking place on the Medical Campus.

“I think it’ll be good,” she said. “This is considered inner city – the ghetto. ... It’ll be nice for our kids to see them build beautiful buildings in their neighborhood.”

News Business Reporter Stephen T. Watson contributed to this report.email: sschulman@buffnews.com and dswilliams@buffnews.com

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