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Senior housing project planned for Kensington Avenue

Developers Nick Sinatra and David Pawlik are teaming up for an independent-living senior housing project on Kensington Avenue, as Buffalo’s real estate community continues a push toward more development in the city’s neglected East Side neighborhods.

The pair are planning to build a three-story building with 40 apartments on a former industrial property at 240 Kensington Ave., at the corner of Pauline Street near Fillmore Avenue.

The 6.16-acre vacant property will first be remediated under the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program before any construction begins and will qualify for tax credits to offset eligible environmental and building costs.

The $5.2 million project would include a mixture of housing options, with both affordable units for residents whose incomes are 50 percent to 60 percent of the county’s median, as well as market-rate units.

However, Pawlik noted that market-rate on the East Side is about 80 percent to 90 percent of the median, not the much higher rents found in downtown Buffalo or Elmwood Village. The Erie County median household income is $50,653, while Buffalo’s is $30,942, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Each apartment will have granite countertops and bathroom tile, as well as emergency pull-cords in case residents have trouble. The building would also include a community center.

“We want to have the highest quality possible and being able to utilize the brownfield funds really makes this project successful for us and brings the elements together,” Pawlik said.

Located near the Kensington Expressway and the city’s planned new Northland Belt Line Corridor industrial hub, and adjacent to a rail line, the property was formerly the Hewitt Robins crushing and vibrating equipment manufacturing plant.

The factory was demolished years ago by the city, which now owns the property through the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. It was designated and marketed as a “redevelopment opportunity” when Sinatra found it.

He and Pawlik now have the light industrial property under contract for about $130,000, roughly the appraised value, and already have approval from the Buffalo Common Council for the acquisition. Financing is also in place.

The project will go before the Buffalo Planning Board on May 19. If approved, and once permits are obtained, the environmental cleanup can proceed and finish by late summer, Pawlik said. Construction could then begin, with a goal of getting it open by early summer of 2016.

“We’re moving through all the hoops,” Pawlik said.

Both Sinatra and especially Pawlik have started doing work on the East Side, and recognized the opportunity to make a bigger impact. Pawlik said the pair chose to focus on senior housing after Sinatra saw Pawlik’s project at 907 East Ferry, and liked the design.

“Dave has done some great projects on the East Side and really has a passion for that neighborhood and redeveloping that neighborhood,” Sinatra said. “And that was a big driver for us.

“We feel like there’s a lot of opportunity on the East Side of Buffalo. It’s something we take very personally as part of our mission of giving back to the community and looking at projects holistically,” he said.

This is Sinatra’s first senior housing effort, but Pawlik has done several. “Hopefully this will be the first of many joint venture opportunities between both Nick and myself,” Pawlik said.

The new building would be constructed on only 2.5 acres of the overall site, at the immediate corner of Kensington and Pauline. The rest of the property has “some very shallow bedrock,” which poses some extra challenges, Pawlik said.

But he and Sinatra are working on a potential concept for a project at the site that “would be a great, welcome addition to the community.” Both declined to elaborate.

“It’s an opportunity that we’re seeing that really could be a good adaptive reuse for the community as well,” he said.