It looks nothing like the dilapidated, abandoned housing project Jennifer Washington remembers when she moved to the neighborhood of the old Ellicott Mall in 1991.
Instead of the blight that marred the area for 20 years, the newly built Ellicott Town Center boasts neat-looking town houses and well-maintained apartment buildings.
"I love the area," said Ms. Washington, who lives in a new housing development nearby. "I had some friends visit from Clarence. They thought it was going to be noisy, but they said it was just like it is out in the suburbs."
Soon, the newly built development also will offer housing for senior citizens.
City and state officials broke ground Sunday for 24 patio-style rental homes for the elderly. During the ceremony, Mayor Masiello also cut a ribbon for 26 town houses, and a street was dedicated to King Peterson, a longtime neighborhood resident who represented the Ellicott District on the Common Council from 1955 to 1959.
The $40 million project to revitalize the Ellicott District began in 1992 and will be completed early next year when Shiloh Senior Homes are finished. The district is bounded by Michigan Avenue and Cherry, Adams and Seneca streets.
The Ellicott Town Center, which used federal, state and local funds, is a joint effort of the city, Norstar Development and First Shiloh Development Corp., which is affiliated with First Shiloh Baptist Church, located next
to the development.
"We're rebuilding the community, and we want this community to be a first-class community -- not just a housing project," said Clemmon H. Hodges, president of First Shiloh Development Corp. "We built the church first-class, and we want the neighborhood first-class."
The non-profit First Shiloh Development Corp. has been meeting once a month with the builders. The single-story homes in the senior complex will consist of two bedrooms, a bathroom, living room, dining area, kitchen and one-car garage. Rent will be $360 or $420, depending on household income.
The town houses have two or three bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths, a full basement and an attached garage. About 14 of the units sold for $46,000 with subsidies.
The other 12 sold for $69,000 with a purchase incentive.
Most residents have only one complaint.
"We need a convenience store or a supermarket," said Ms. Washington, who drives to Cheektowaga for groceries. "There's really no convenience stores around here."
Sylvia Smith, who also lives in the nearby development, also wants a grocery store near the complex.
"It would be nice if we had a supermarket," Ms. Smith said. "That's the main thing we need. . . . If you don't have a car and you're a senior citizen, shopping is going to be difficult to do."
A Wilson Farms convenience store may open in the neighborhood soon, said Ellicott District Common Council Member Barbara Miller-Williams, who noted the store would be located between the recently opened Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet and a day-care center.
"If not that store, then I'll continue to do some exploring," she said.