Kensington Village in Cheektowaga, the area's first major suburban apartment complex, will be converted into a gated community for student housing in a nearly $100 million project.
The apartments just off Eggert Road near the Buffalo city line will be aimed at students attending the University at Buffalo and Buffalo State, Daemen, Canisius, Erie Community, Medaille and Villa Maria colleges.
The Town of Cheektowaga would convey Kenville Road to the developer under the plan to spend up to $96 million to renovate 529 apartments, build a community center and new pool.
"I think it's terrific," Cheektowaga Planning Board Chairman Anthony Sisti said. "I like the fact it's going to be for students. I like the fact they're remodeling the whole thing. I really think it's going to be an improvement over there."
The Planning Board has approved the site plan for the project, pending the legal approval for the town to convey the road and sanitary sewers to entities headed by developer Mark Chason.
The renovation is to take place in two phases, with the first phase of renovating 70 buildings for 552 beds starting this summer. The second phase would start next year, for 652 beds in 82 buildings.
The development is to be called University Centre Student Housing Community.
"This new off-campus community, located within minutes from the academic centers, downtown Buffalo and numerous arts, entertainment and cultural attractions, will create a blended environment of shared learning and living for a diverse college community," said Chason. "We are working to develop a comprehensive model for student living that will stimulate new business growth and property value stabilization throughout the neighborhood."
Some student apartments in Amherst have generated complaints from neighbors about rowdiness, and more than 200 police calls in a year. But Cheektowaga officials are encouraged that University Centre will have private security, and student tenants would have to enter through a gate.
"It's a safe project," Supervisor James J. Jankowiak said. "I think it gives the parents a sense of well-being."
"I think that would protect them," Sisti said. "Sometimes they [students] become easy prey for people."
MSH-Kenmore, under an agreement with Capstone Chason Development, wants to acquire, redesign, rehabilitate and convert the apartments, according to the town. The Kenmore Housing Authority would issue up to $96 million in tax-exempt bonds for the project.
A total of 1,208 beds will be available in one-, two- and four-bedroom apartments in buildings on the 51-acre site, according to a project overview provided for the Kenmore Housing Authority.
The developers plan to reposition the property, and include about 16 acres of green space. Twelve buildings may be demolished. A running track and an outdoor basketball court would be centrally located, and the developers plan to build a 16,000-square-foot community center with meeting rooms, student lounges with fireplace, community theater, gym and fitness room, outdoor pool, vending and rental offices.
About one-quarter of Kensington Village's current tenants are students, and the developer is hoping the complex's proximity to area colleges will attract more, according to the overview.
Chason said the new housing will be a change for some of Kensington Village's current residents.
"As part of our planning, we are sensitive to the needs of those residents and their relocation opportunities. This is a phased development plan that will happen over a couple of years and will not affect the entire property," he said.
The growth of private student housing is a nationwide phenomenon, said Joseph K. Krakowiak, UB's director of housing.
"It's a style," he said.
Many university students live off campus, and UB does not require them to live on campus, he said.
"We know statistically people who live on campus, especially new students, do better academically and stay with us," he said. But he added, "I don't think one size fits all."
Since the development would be nonprofit, town officials hope to negotiate a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement that would provide the town with payments equivalent to what it receives in taxes today from the complex.
The late Herbert S. Chason developed more than 1,000 apartments at Kensington Village in the late 1940s and 1950s.