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Plan to rehab the Dellenbaugh block is a positive sign for the neighborhood

News that eight investors have a plan for rehabilitating and reusing a pair of deteriorating buildings in an area once overlooked by developers is a healthy sign that Buffalo’s rebirth is expanding.

The potential exists for jump-starting a neighborhood on the East Side as the historic buildings get a much-needed makeover into a mixed-used complex. It is one of the first big projects linked to the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor.

The investors, led by prominent architect Steven J. Carmina, propose to spend $6 million to redevelop the 170-year-old Dellenbaugh block at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Broadway. The proposed project is just east of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus-central business district axis. Its location is ideal as one of the eastern gateways to downtown.

It also has an important historical element as home to the office of the first African-American doctor in Buffalo, Dr. Benjamin C. Taylor. It is also across the street from the historic Colored Musicians Club and around the corner from the Nash House Museum.

Carmina Wood Morris DPC will rehab 163-167 Broadway and 60 Nash St. into 18 one- and two-bedroom apartments, in addition to an 8,000-square-foot restaurant with a banquet facility. There will also be 7,000 additional square feet of available commercial space for rent.

More important, this will be the first new housing project on that street that appeals to the working class. Instead of paying $1,500 a month (or much more) for a one-bedroom apartment, this housing would be affordable for many of the people working on the Medical Campus or at RiverBend.

This project could serve as a beacon for the neighborhood that could help attract the critical mass of people a neighborhood needs to thrive.

Carmina and developer J. Roger Trettel of Revival Development LLC had been eying the property for four years. They saw potential in what was happening at the successful Compass East mixed-use building at 425 Michigan Ave., home to computer tablet maker Bak USA. Carmina and Trettel believe much more could be happening on Michigan.

Bringing the deteriorated buildings – with their collapsing floors and unsafe roofs – back to life will not be easy.

Mayor Byron W. Brown’s commitment has been critical in helping the group secure additional financing for structural stabilization. It has budgeted $1.5 million just to put the buildings into position to be built out. The group is hoping to gain approval for local, state and federal funds and tax credits to move the project along.

On the team is Brian C. Davis, who several years ago broke the public’s trust by stealing $48,000 in public funds while serving as Ellicott District Council member. He was sentenced to a year in prison back in 2012. While a bit concerning, Davis has paid his debt to society and has earned Carmina’s trust. Davis should not be the focus here. The focus should be on the momentum finally starting to emerge on Buffalo’s East Side.

It is a good sign and proof of what is possible across this city.

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