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Nonprofit to create Westminster Commons on East Side

A Buffalo nonprofit consortium of human-services centers has won approval to construct a new multi-family apartment complex on the city's East Side, with supplementary services to support seniors and other low-income individuals in the area.

The Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers Inc. wants to combine a group of properties on Monroe and Adams streets, reusing the existing Westminster Settlement House building at 419 Monroe while constructing a new four-story, multi-family apartment complex on Adams. Besides 419 Monroe, the project also includes 423 Monroe and 418, 420, 426 and 428 Adams.

The goal is to create a "village concept" that combines housing for seniors from the community who face some mental health or other challenges, alongside a treatment center that has a medical clinic, pharmacy, rehab services and adult day programs to help them.

"We are literally creating a village with onsite services that are open to the entire community," said Ricardo Herrera, executive director of the nonprofit organization. "We want to do something that will transform the neighborhood."

BFNC intends to restore the three-story historic Westminster building to its original appearance, while reconfiguring the interior to handle a clinic and community use. It will be linked to the new apartment building via a proposed glass corridor to the east, where a one-story lobby will be the public and resident entrance.

Plans for the 78,000-square-foot apartment building call for 76 one-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom units, with community spaces, shared laundry and trash collection on each floor. There will also be private and public outdoor spaces with landscaping and benches.

Three other parking lots will be added along Monroe Street for residents and visitors.

The Westminster Commons project, which was approved by the Buffalo Planning Board Monday, will be funded in part by the New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal. Officials plan to submit their application to the state by Dec. 5, with approval expected by May. Construction would begin next September, to be completed by September 2018.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to save a legacy," Herrera said.

The project represents the culmination of more than two years of work to determine how to provide better services to seniors in the neighborhood, while also restoring the deteriorating Westminster House and using some additional properties that BFNC had acquired from the city and maintained for several years.

BFNC provides mental health, care management, housing, wellness, financial literacy skills and other services to low-income adults, seniors and youth in Buffalo and throughout Erie County. The organization maintains offices, clinics and other facilities on Forest Avenue near Elmwood Avenue, in the Tri-Main Center, in the Moot Community Center in the Fruit Belt, in a housing office on Monroe Street, and through multiple supervised or licensed housing programs that together provide 150 units.

The agency already owned the Westminster House, once the third-oldest settlement house in the country, dating back to 1893. Formerly a training center for immigrants to America to learn English, woodworking, and domestic skills, it most recently housed a BFNC residence facility. Since then, the building fell into disrepair, and Herrera pulled the last of his staff and operation out last spring, securing the building until the organization could decide what to do with it.

The new complex will include a satellite health clinic, a pharmacy, an adult day program and rehab services. BFNC will also offer youth programs, respite care and community meeting space, as well as a commercial kitchen. The organization plans to bring economic and other services to the neighborhood, as well.

"This is a service-rich project," Herrera said. "All of our facilities that we run are open to the public."





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