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Building Buffalo / Former Best Street school getting new life as affordable housing

Building Update is a regular feature highlighting progress on development projects throughout the region.

Project name: Parkview Apartments

Address: 769 Best St.

Developer: Rhonda A. Ricks and SA&A Development

Cost: $8 million

Government assistance: $1.1 million in Buffalo HOME funds, federal housing tax credits

Description: Conversion of the former Buffalo Public School 59 into 26 affordable apartments.

Completion date: December

Lowdown: A vacant former Buffalo public school located near Martin Luther King Jr. Park and the Buffalo Museum of Science is becoming an affordable housing complex on the city’s East Side.

Local developer Rhonda A. Ricks’ R+A+R Development Inc. is working with a national senior and affordable housing developer with Buffalo roots to renovate the former Public School 59 at 769 Best St. into 26 apartments with modern decor and amenities. The school building has been vacant for more than five years.

Plans for Parkview Apartments call for 19 units for tenants whose income is just half of the area median, with six more for tenants at or below 30 percent of the area median and one for a tenant at or below 60 percent. Construction has already begun on the $8 million project, with interior demolition underway.

Ricks is a Buffalo native who worked as a compliance consultant on the Buffalo Public Schools Construction Project.

She worked with city and state agencies “for years,” but credited SA&A Development with bringing not only its experience to the task, but also the necessary funding, both directly and through Stratford Capital and Citizens Bank. Rhode Island-based Citizens provided a $4.58 million construction loan in March. “Our company is dedicated to providing quality and affordable workforce housing,” said David S. Alexander, one of the firm’s principals.

Now based in Miami but with offices in Buffalo, Baltimore and suburban Philadelphia, SA+A development was founded in 1976 by Stuart Alexander, a 40-year veteran of real estate development and management, who also provided urban and regional planning services to more than 20 communities in New York State.

Alexander developed, built and sold the first Low-Income Housing Tax Credit project in the state – Maryvale Senior Housing – in 1987 and the first mixed-use tax-exempt bond project in upstate New York. A University at Buffalo graduate, Alexander served as a commissioner of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, a board member of the Buffalo Urban League and a Buffalo representative to the White House Council on Aging.

Since its launch, the company has built over 2,000 units of both affordable and market-rate housing, totaling $100 million in development. Among its development and construction management projects are the building of new single-family homes for the Seneca Nation of Indians on both the Cattaraugus and Chautauqua reservations, and the rehab of over 2,000 homes in the Love Canal neighborhood in Niagara Falls.

– Jonathan D. Epstein