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People Inc. gets go-ahead for Linwood senior housing project

People Inc. got the green light Monday night from the Buffalo Planning Board for a proposed new senior housing project at Gates Circle, after multiple meetings with community members and the city's Historic Preservation Board led to changes that addressed prior design concerns.

The Amherst-based social services nonprofit is seeking to build a 37-unit  facility at 637 Linwood Ave., seeking to meet a growing demand for aging-in-place housing options in the city. The three-story building would be constructed on a small part of what was once the Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital site, on a 1.1-acre vacant former hospital parking lot which People Inc. would acquire from TM Montante Development. The project, which also covers 907 and 911 Lafayette Avenue, includes 37 parking spaces for the tenants.

The project previously met with some resistance in the neighborhood, led by the Linwood Preservation District & Friends, but officials from People Inc. and architects from Long & Associates met three times each with community members, the Gates Circle Advisory Committee and the Buffalo Preservation Board, ultimately winning the latter's approval. With the Planning Board approval in hand, officials now plan to apply for funding from New York State Homes and Community Renewal's Housing Trust Fund Corp. as part of the project's financing.

The proposed 38-foot tall facility at the southeastern corner of Linwood and Lafayette is completely separate from the six-story Canterbury Woods senior housing project that is now under construction nearby, right on the circle at Delaware Avenue. That's the anchor project for the overall redevelopment of the 6.9-acre hospital site.

Plans by architect Matthew Long show the three-story People Inc. building would consist of 31 one-bedroom units of 700 square feet each and six two-bedroom apartments of 925 square feet each, plus private porches and greenspace. The apartments are intended for seniors aged 55 and over, with incomes ranging from 30 percent to 130 percent of the area median, or $16,000 to $75,000.

Neighbors previously cited a desire for the new project to look more like individual homes rather than a single large monolithic building, so officials modified the facade design, added landscaping, changed the roof style and reduced the number of units from 42 originally.

Officials hope to start construction in September or October of next year, followed by a year of work before it opens.

PROJECT: 637 Linwood Avenue
Developer: People Inc.
Use: 37-unit senior housing
Size: Three stories
Cost: $11.4 million

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