Construction on a new residential neighborhood at the former Central Park Plaza site in the Fillmore Leroy neighborhood will kick off today.
Developers LPCiminelli and Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. plan to build a $90 million development with about 600 housing units, including apartments, townhomes and single-family houses, on a 27-acre site just east of Main Street.
It's one of the largest residential projects underway in the city and is aimed at providing "workforce housing" for employees at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and others.
Plans include mixed-income, affordable and market-rate units, as well as a small amount of neighborhood retail services, such as a grocery store, restaurant and coffee shop.
The first phase, totaling $24 million in investment on 3.9 acres, will include construction of four three-story buildings with 52 rental apartments, plus 32 single-family attached townhomes available for sale. Preleasing will start in spring 2018, with the first occupants moving in during the summer.
"The development process for Highland Park has revealed a strong desire by our community to strengthen existing neighborhoods and build on the assets of the City of Buffalo," said LPCiminelli Senior Vice President John Ciminelli. "The start of construction at Highland Park moves us all one step closer to realizing those goals."
The project began with the purchase of the site in 2012 by Highland Park Village LLC, a group led by Louis P. Ciminelli, who founded LPCiminelli but stepped down from leading the development firm earlier this year to focus on his defense of corruption charges related to a state Buffalo Billion contract.
Highland Park Village's purchase followed years of pressure from neighbors and city officials on the former owner of the dilapidated strip plaza to sell the property because it was being neglected and had become a haven for vandalism and illicit activity.
The site is bordered by Holden Street, Central Park and Manhattan avenues and Bennett Village Terrace. Besides LPCiminelli and Ciminelli Real Estate, which are separate companies owned respectively by brothers Louis and Paul Ciminelli, the project also includes HHL Architects, Goody Clancy and Wendel Cos.
LPCiminelli already has completed initial site work, including infrastructure improvements and the extension of Chalmers Avenue into the project site. Hill Street also is being extended, to form a traffic circle with Chalmers. But completion is still a long way off, as the three-stage initiative will take five to seven years to finish.
LPCiminelli demolished the remaining buildings, many of which already were deteriorating or collapsing, and removed the asphalt. Crews then remediated the brownfield site under state supervision, removing 1,140 cubic yards of contaminated soil and fill materials – enough to fill one-third of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
The site was used more than a century ago as a limestone quarry by a cement company, which continued operations there until after World War II. Central Park Plaza was constructed in 1958, but the last stores closed in 2011.
LPCiminelli worked with city officials, Elim Christian Fellowship and community leaders to devise a plan aimed at creating diverse housing options and strengthening the surrounding neighborhood, while meeting the goals of the city's Green Code. The project is envisioned as a transit-oriented development, capitalizing on its proximity to the Metro Rail station on Main Street, as well as bus routes. The project design includes bus stops and waiting areas.
Each building in the first phase will contain four one-bedroom and one two-bedroom handicapped-accessible units on the first floor, plus eight two-story units above. They will rent for $900 to $1,500 per month. There also will be 56 off-street parking spaces.
The townhomes will feature a mix of two- and three-bedroom designs, ranging in size from 1,200 to 1,500 square feet each. Those homes will be marketed for sale at prices between $200,000 and $230,000. Each will have garage parking.
The building facades will be a blend of red brick veneer, fiber cement siding and other materials, with gray, blue, tan and green colors. The plan also includes 25,000 square feet of public park space, landscaping, a playground and play area, street improvements and bike racks, in keeping with Green Code requirements.