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Senior housing project in Amherst moves forward

The first of two buildings in the $26.1 million Fox Creek Estates senior citizens apartment complex is expected to be ready for occupancy by the beginning of next year, the developer said Friday.

The project, which has been in the works since late 2010 but has since faced delays, an ownership change and rising costs, has been redesigned to include eight additional apartments and a revamped design for some of the 208 units that are planned for the complex at 9500 Transit Road in Amherst.

“The good thing is that the project is finally going to occur,” said Sean Hopkins, the attorney for developer Anthony J. Cutaia and his Fox Creek Estates II LLC. Cutaia and his ownership group have bought out foreign investors who were part of the original development group, Waldex Holdings LLC, Hopkins said.

Because the project has taken longer than expected to begin, the costs to build the pair of three-story independent-living apartment buildings has jumped by $5.7 million, or about 28 percent, from the original cost forecast. Part of that is because of higher building material expenses and the need for additional sewer work, as well as the decision to add eight additional units and a swimming pool to the original plan.

The Amherst IDA, which approved an estimated $3 million in property, sales and mortgage tax breaks for the project in 2010, approved the ownership change Friday – a necessary legal step that prompted Amherst Supervisor Barry Weinstein to question the overall need for granting tax incentives to senior housing projects.

Weinstein cited a recent report from the University at Buffalo that found that only 1 percent of senior citizens in Erie County leave the region because of a lack of housing options. “I’m questioning why we’re subsidizing it further,” said Weinstein, who cast the lone vote against the otherwise routine approval of an ownership change.

Edward Stachura, another IDA board member, noted that the tax breaks for the project were approved 2½ years ago, and that changes in the project’s developer would not alter the scope of the tax incentives available for the project, unless the property’s assessed value increased.