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Developers propose ambitious residential community on Broadway

A trio of developers specializing in affordable housing wants to undertake a signature project by turning a longtime East Side industrial property on Broadway into apartments.

Stuart Alexander and Associates has partnered with Rhonda Ricks and SCG Development to propose a new residential community aimed at workers on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and other area residents.

To achieve that, they've set their sights on a 13-acre empty lot at 490 Broadway where Buffalo Forge Manufacturing once stood.

The multi-phase project, dubbed The Forge on Broadway, calls for transformation of the site at Broadway and Mortimer Street with 185 apartments and retail space.

Details of the financing for the $48 million project are still being worked out.

"It's ambitious, but it's also in fitting with the fact that this is a 13-acre site, really ideally located close to downtown, close to employment centers, close to the medical center," said David S. Alexander, a principal with SA+A. "It's part of a community that's really revitalizing in a positive way."

The first phase envisions 185 mixed-income units, of which 80 percent will be reserved for residents earning at or below 60 percent of the median income for a family of four in Erie County of $67,300. The remaining 20 percent of the apartments will be for tenants earning between 60 percent and 120 percent of the median, or up to $87,490.

The goal is to build "a vibrant, residential community" with a focus on residents' health, wellness and active living.

"I think mixed-income housing is definitely needed," Alexander said. "It's not being addressed in any type of meaningful way right now, and this is a great site for it. It's about converting a former industrial site."

The facility would include "active design" features such as a "green roof" over some of the parking area, where residents could exercise, participate in a community garden, or let children play.

Additional features could include a fitness center, a bicycle-share program, an outdoor jogging and walking track, electric-car charging stations and healthy cooking classes. The developers are working with Active Design Center of New York City, which supports the use of public areas in buildings to encourage more physical activity through using stairs, exercise equipment and outdoor space.

"This really is about wellness and about having space for the residents. It's a little bit unique," Alexander said. "We're seeing a lot of energy in this kind of housing in other parts of the country, although it's in its infancy. If we can make this work, we'll be one of the cutting-edge companies."


This is a rendering from above of the proposed Forge affordable housing complex on Buffalo's East Side.

An additional component facing Broadway would offer 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of commercial space for retail or services for residents and surrounding neighborhoods.

Additional phases could follow, with more commercial or retail development based on community demand.

"We're hoping we get a lot of interest for a new retail component," Alexander said. "We plan on engaging the community and understanding what is most needed."

There's also talk of a small park adjacent to the project itself. But there's no rushed timetable to get it all done. "It allows for a long-term community revitalization plan," he said. "This is something we can work on for a prolonged period.

The development partners, operating as SAA KC Buffalo Forge LLC, are planning to formally unveil the concept to the public at a community meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6, at the Michigan Street Baptist Church at 511 Michigan Ave.

Founded in Buffalo in 1976 but now based in Florida, SA+A specializes in affordable and senior housing, working with government agencies, community leaders and nonprofits to rebuild neighborhoods using an array of investors and tax-credit financing. It has over 2,000 units of housing in New York, Florida, Maryland and Pennsylvania, with a portfolio of over $100 million in development and construction.

It completed its first housing tax credit development in New York state in 1987, with the Maryvale Senior Housing project, and developed the first mixed-use tax-exempt bond project in upstate New York. Besides Maryvale, its projects also include the Walden Park and Hertel Park Senior Residences in Buffalo, Angle Park Senior Residences in Orchard Park and various projects with the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority and Seneca Nation.

"The central theme of what we do is affordable and mixed-income housing. That's what we've always done and that's what our plans are here," Alexander said. "We've been a close witness to all the change that's been going on in the city."

The firm is converting the former P.S. 59 at 769 Best St. into an affordable housing development. The latest plan for the former Buffalo Forge property incorporates mixed-income development with the company's new focus on health and wellness.

Ricks' R+A+R Development is a minority-owned developer that is working with Alexander's firm on the Parkview Apartments project across from Martin Luther King Jr. Park. SCG, an affiliate of Stratford Capital Group, is a private development firm founded in 2007, with over $480 million in affordable housing, adaptive re-use and historic renovation projects in 10 states, including over 4,000 units.

The Buffalo Forge Company started in 1878 as a manufacturer of blacksmith forges and later expanded its product line to include drilling achines, steam engines, pumps, heaters, blowers, air exhaust systems, dust collectors and metal-cutting equipment.

At its height, its multi-building complex once covered the entire block between Broadway, Sycamore, Spring and Mortimer streets, including a six-story building on Broadway. The company went public in 1941, and was acquired by Howden Group of South Carolina in 1993. A year later, the Buffalo plant was closed, and it was demolished in 2006.

The property, which is still owned by Howden International, is under contract to be acquired, but the developers won't close unless they have the required municipal and other approvals in place. The site is already in the Brownfield Cleanup Program, which makes it eligible for brownfield tax credits for redevelopment. Alexander said the developers will also seek low-income housing tax credits and funding from the state Housing Finance Agency. Alexander said officials have not decided whether to seek tax breaks from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.

Another view of the proposed Forge project.

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