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Church's real estate proposal would redevelop Broadway parcel

A local church has redevelopment plans for a 14-acre chunk of land along Broadway.

Developers call the parcel -- which runs along Broadway between Spring Street and Jefferson Avenue -- a "strategic" piece of property on the city's East Side with close proximity to downtown in an emerging neighborhood.

"With the completion of Sycamore Village with new market homes the city is doing, and with the townhouses on Jefferson from Clinton to George streets, we have this emerging community . . . You can't put up a bunch of homes and have no amenities that fit the area," said the Rev. Matthew Brown, pastor of Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ.

Temple Community Development Corp. -- the real estate development arm of the church -- is the city-designated developer on the project.

Planners envision a $17 million mixed-use urban village that includes a business park, some light industrial businesses, office space, and some recreational space for neighbors. Officials also are talking about an urgent-care facility and an apartment building to promote density.

"The big picture is we can have some apartments to build density, an economic development building, a retail center, and neighborhood amenities like a soup and sandwich place or a dry cleaning business," Brown said. "We're talking about the type of community where neighbors can buy a newspaper, get a cup of coffee and sit in a green community space. That way, people can enjoy their neighborhood."

Brian Reilly, Buffalo's commissioner of economic development, permits and inspections said city officials are "excited about the potential of the project."

"The mayor has asked our staff to support it any way we can," he said.

The 14-acre parcel is only part of the church's redevelopment plans for the Broadway area.

It already spent about $2 million over the last couple of years renovating the church and expanding programs, Brown said.

And the church's immediate focus is a building it owns at 437 Broadway, the former warehouse site of Laux Sporting Goods. Church officials are planning a fundraiser to raise $1.7 million to renovate the building into retail, community service and office space.

In terms of the 14-acre property, the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency is putting together a contract to help the development company buy the property from the Howden Company, Brown said. The soil also still must be tested to make sure it's suitable for the venture.

To fund the $17 million project -- which does not include the cost of the land -- officials will be looking for public and private financing. Brown said he has talked to private investors from Milwaukee and Nashville who have met with Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown and the team. He was cautious about potential government funds.

"While we're optimistic that in the future this can be a reality, we are connected to our practical realities of fiscal crises in Albany," Matthew Brown said, referring to Gov. David A. Paterson's recent proposal to cut spending in the state budget by $2 billion.

Paterson also warned legislative leaders last week the state faces the same kinds of service cuts witnessed in California if action isn't taken now.

"The fiscal crisis may have an adverse effect in aid to municipalities," said Brown, who is not related to the mayor.


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