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Higgins to announce plans for Commodore Perry housing complex

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, is calling for action in the Commodore Perry neighborhood off of South Park Avenue. He will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Monday to announce his plans for the deteriorating housing complex that stretches from near downtown into South Buffalo's Old First Ward.

The Perry complex sits less than a mile from Canalside, and while the six towers and some of the low-standing apartments are occupied, more than 300 of the oldest apartments are vacant, some for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority is looking for state or federal funds to knock them down, and to rebuild low-income housing as part of a larger mixed-income neighborhood.

Many residents say they are convinced the housing authority is delaying repairs at Perry because the property will be sold, either to developers or to the Buffalo Bills for a new stadium. The area has been mentioned as a possible site for a new stadium for the Bills, but team owners Terry and Kim Pegula so far have shown little interest in building a new stadium in the city or anywhere else.

The Commodore Perry apartments consist of three sets of apartment complexes that, at one time, totaled 1,000 apartments. Today, there are about 740 units. The three sets are:

- Six high-rise buildings built in 1956, containing about 326 apartments, nearly all occupied.

- Rowhouse apartments built in 1956. A majority of 84 are occupied.

- The original flat-roofed, rowhouse apartments built in 1939. These are in the worst shape. Initially, there were 634, but many were demolished in the late 1990s, leaving about 330. Almost all are vacant.

An aerial view of some of the deteriorating buildings in the Commodore Perry housing complex in Buffalo. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

The housing authority has been working for the past decade on redevelopment plans for the full 41-acre Perry complex.

Those plans call for retaining the six high-rise buildings and demolishing 300 to 400 low-rise brick apartments, and then replacing them with new housing and related amenities. Demolition costs are pegged at $10 million, while combined demolition and redevelopment costs have ranged from $44 million to $200 million depending on the extent of the plan.

The agency at one point received a federal planning grant for the Perry redevelopment project, and now is hoping to receive money for the demolition and redevelopment from a housing fund that New York State recently approved. The agency also hopes federal redevelopment funds could become available.

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