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Jefferson Avenue project is the product of developers dedicated to collaboration

Plans by a couple of local developers to embark upon a residential-retail project on Jefferson Avenue demonstrate the growing impact of the burgeoning Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and a new sense of optimism in a depressed area.

The force fueled by a governor who vowed to do his part to change Buffalo’s Rust Belt narrative and by bold civic leaders and developers is being felt in new neighborhoods.

Brown patches are starting to green again – along Elmwood, Delaware and Hertel avenues, Niagara and Genesee streets and parts of Main Street, especially where cars have returned.

Now, as News staff reporter Jonathan D. Epstein quoted supporters, it is Jefferson Avenue’s turn.

Nick Sinatra and David Pawlik intend to construct a pair of three-story mixed-use buildings on Jefferson Avenue, just north of the Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion on Dodge Street and two blocks from the Fruit Belt neighborhood.

It will take approvals and work on financing the project through a combination of state, federal, private and foundation sources. Construction could begin in the spring of 2017, with completion in early 2018.

Tentative plans involve a total of 84 apartments with commercial spaces for retail tenants and other small businesses on each first floor. This $20 million project at 1160 Jefferson Ave. will be unique for this area in that it imagines a mixed-income population with incomes ranging from 30 percent to 130 percent of the area’s median income.

Much has been written about the virtues of creating diverse economic communities. If the developers can make their concept work, it could result in enormous benefits for the residents and the neighborhood.

Developers have been smart about filling in the details of the project by bringing key community leaders to the table. They are working with People Inc., the region’s largest social services agency, in addition to representatives of the neighborhood’s minority business community, including Herbert Bellamy of Bellamy Enterprises.

They also have the support of Mayor Byron W. Brown as well as Common Council President Darius Pridgen, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes and State Sen. Tim Kennedy, whose districts all include the project site. Brown said the developers’ outreach to community members, “faith-based organizations and businesses in that community, on the front end of the project, is just absolutely exceptional.”

The project has the potential to be transformational, and should serve as a model for providing city leaders and residents a seat at the decision-making table.