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NEW 'URBAN VILLAGE' OFFERS BEACON FOR CITY'S RENEWAL

Over the past decade and a half, it has been hard not to notice the scores of new single-family homes springing up in scattered sites throughout parts of the city's East Side.

But these monuments to the concept of new urbanism tell only part of the story.

The next chapter in this evolving saga of community renewal starts Tuesday, when the Willert Park Village Model Center at Jefferson Avenue and Sycamore Street is officially opened to the public.

There are six brand-new three- and four-bedroom, single-family houses situated in the core of what city officials believe is destined to be Buffalo's newest "in-demand" neighborhood. Surrounded by a white picket fence, the new model homes, they claim, are just the wingtips of the proverbial phoenix arising from the ashes of a community for too long laid to ruin.

"These houses boast top-of-the-line amenities," said Fred K. Heinle, project manager for new housing programs in the city's Community Development Department. "The exteriors reflect urban designs, and the inside spaces are reflective of modern living."

Heinle will join Mayor Masiello, Common Council President James W. Pitts, Ellicott Council Member Barbara Miller-Williams and the city's private development partners at noon Tuesday for the unveiling of the new model center.

The proposed Willert Park Village, bounded by Michigan and Jefferson avenues, Seneca Street and the Kensington Expressway, is part of a $46 million neighborhood redevelopment project designed to create what planners refer to as an "urban village." The concept embraces a return to self-contained, mixed-use neighborhoods that feature interconnected street networks designed to encourage walking.

Part of the city's home-ownership zone, it is being funded, in part, through grants and loan subsidies provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the New York State Affordable Housing Corp. and the city.

M&T Bank is providing up to $24 million in mortgage financing through the State of New York Mortgage Agency and also some construction financing.

The project includes the construction of 344 new homes in the city's Willert Park neighborhood.

Of the he 344 new homes being built, 300 will be available with purchase price subsidies of $10,000, $20,000 and $25,000 for qualified buyers of moderate income, Heinle said. The remaining houses will be sold at market value. They will range in price between $90,000 and $118,900 without the purchase-price subsidies.

Most of the models to be unveiled Tuesday feature vaulted or cathedral ceilings and are equipped with attached garages, fireplaces, skylights and sliding glass patio doors.

M.J. Peterson-Forbes Housing Co. and James Management are the two developers on the project. Three houses in the Willert Park Village Model Center represent designs constructed by M.J. Peterson; the other three by James Management.

In addition to the new homes, the project includes renovations that already are under way at John F. Kennedy and Bennett parks.

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