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3 West Side sites set for $1.4 million rehab

Three empty West Side eyesores will soon be turned into energy-efficient apartments for 11 families.

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held Wednesday for a redevelopment project on Massachusetts Avenue near Chenango Street. Neighborhood leaders, housing activists and city officials said the $1.4 million project is part of a broader plan to strengthen a 16-block area.

"This fits into a more comprehensive vision for the neighborhood as a whole, a vision that has been driven by members who live on that street," said Aaron D. Bartley, executive director of PUSH Buffalo, short for People United for Sustainable Housing.

PUSH is partnering with the city and state on a project that will transform 397, 398 and 460 Massachusetts into 10 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and one four-bedroom unit. The apartments will be marketed to families who meet income eligibility guidelines.

"These will be very suitable for small- to medium-sized families -- families that we would like to keep on the West Side," Bartley told The Buffalo News.

The state has provided about $1 million in assistance for the project, while the city has committed about $400,000 in federal housing funds. PUSH has raised about $75,000 through private donations, Bartley said.

The housing development is part of the state's Green Development Zone initiative. Environmentally friendly "green" technologies will be tapped, including solar electrical systems that are designed to cut utility costs. The units also will feature energy-efficient windows and water heaters, and recycled-content materials.

Mayor Byron W. Brown, who attended Wednesday's groundbreaking, voiced hope that the partnership with PUSH will demonstrate how entities can work together to rebuild neighborhoods.

"Our shared goal is to provide a better quality of life for residents, employment opportunities in the revitalization process and strengthening our tax base," Brown said.

The project blueprints won rave reviews from the city's Planning Board when they were presented last March.

Bartley said he is impressed with the city's commitment to housing rehabilitation. The city wants to rehab 500 residential units over a five-year span. He said city officials, including Planning Director Brendan Mehaffy and Housing Director Yvonne C. McCray, have been "very helpful" in advancing a project that should be completed within 10 months.

"It's a lot of work, because [the structures] are being completely gutted," Bartley said.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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