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Residents press city to complete development ; 9 more homes planned in Sycamore Village

Residents of Sycamore Village, Buffalo's upscale subsidized-housing development, say city officials have abandoned them.

The residents -- some of whom paid $176,000 for homes that cost the city $225,000 to build -- want the city to follow through with a planned third phase, bringing nine more homes to what is now a 15-house development.

They also want the city to fulfill a promise to install fences and signs.

"We've been having a terrible time trying to get things finished," said Pheland Floyd, one of the residents. "I think they don't want anything to do with us."

Peter Cutler, a spokesman for Mayor Byron W. Brown, said the city remains committed to Sycamore Village, a highly subsidized development aimed at luring higher-income homeowners to one of the city's poorer East Side neighborhoods.

Signs and fences will be installed in the spring, Cutler said. Construction of additional houses also is planned.

"The city has not abandonedPhase 3," Cutler said. "I think everybody would agree, the housing market, over the last couple years, has been particularly soft. We will continue to pursue the implementation of Phase 3 and seek ways to market and get it completed." He did not offer any timetable or financing details.

Residents remain skeptical. They noted that work recently began on Colvin Estates, a new development in North Buffalo. Construction of the first 30 homes -- with price tags of about $215,000 -- is scheduled to begin next year.

In meeting with Brown over the summer, Sycamore Village residents expressed fears that failure to complete the third phase could hurt their property values by restricting the thumbprint of their development and leaving vacant lots -- sometimes poorly maintained -- surrounding their property. One of those properties, resident Dwain James said, has become an informal parking lot for a nearby church.

"We didn't buy these homes to have a parking lot in front of our house," James said.

At last summer's meeting, Brown said the city doesn't have funds for more Sycamore Village homes, James added.

"He said they put too much money into these homes, and they don't have revenue now to start building new homes," James said.

Cutler said he was not at the meeting and so could not comment on James' remarks.

But Cutler said Colvin Estates does not preclude the city from following through with Sycamore Village.

Unlike Sycamore Village, Colvin Estates is largely a private-sector venture, with the city's financial role generally limited to infrastructure -- building water and sewer lines, as well as a street.

Sycamore Village, however, has represented a major investment for Buffalo. The city spent about $1 million for environmental cleanup of the site and another $1 million on infrastructure. Another $1 million went to subsidize the 15 homes, built through the city's Urban Renewal Agency.

Eleven of the 15 homes cost about $225,000 to construct but were sold for about $176,000 after subsidies.

The other four -- financed exclusively with federal funds -- were set aside for low- to moderate-income families, selling for as little as $90,000 after subsidies that, in those four cases, exceeded $100,000 each.

James and Floyd are among those paying as much as $176,000 for their homes.

"We could have moved to East Aurora, Wheatfield, anywhere, but we wanted to be part of being in the city," Floyd said.

"We feel like you got us here with the idea that you are going to finish the project," James said. "We bought into Sycamore Village, thinking there were things that are going to happen."

Instead, he said, "It's like they forgot about us."


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