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Planning Board OKs pair of low-income housing projects

The Buffalo Planning Board Monday night renewed its assent for a pair of housing projects aimed at least partially at low-income residents – two years after the projects were first reviewed and approved.

David Pawlik's CSS Construction plans to construct a three-story, 40-unit senior housing facility at 240 Kensington Ave., on a cleaned-up former brownfield site that formerly housed a manufacturing plant. The wood-framed building, to be built on 2.5 acres of the 6.16-acre property, would feature a stone veneer facade with fiber cement panels and composite wood lap siding.

The $8 million Kensington Apartments project includes eight one-bedroom units with 825 square feet and 30 two-bedroom apartments with 950 square feet, with one elevator and no basement. Some would be market-rate, while others would be for low-income residents. There also would be 47 parking spaces, plus in-unit bicycle storage in the 48,561-square-foot building.

It was originally approved in 2015 as a $5.3 million project, with Pawlik and Nick Sinatra as the city's designated developers for the site, but the approval expired. Construction is expected to last 12 months.

Meanwhile, the Planning Board recommended approval by the Common Council for an adaptive-reuse permit that would allow the Lt. Col Matt Urban Human Services Center to turn the vacant former Public School 57 into low-income permanent housing for homeless women.

The planned new Hope House at 243 Sears St. would feature 28 apartments for women or women with children who are living in temporary shelters, including 26 studio and two two-bedroom apartments.

The 46,922-square-foot building also would house some human services functions and administrative offices for the Matt Urban Center, which will move those operations from 385 Paderewski Drive. Residents also would be offered case management, counseling, referrals for additional services, assistance in locating permanent housing, benefits advocacy, job training, employment counseling, budgeting skills, meals and clothing.

The $12.8 million project also will have a public clothing closet and food pantry that will help bring customers to surrounding businesses and retailers, according to the nonprofit's application to the city. Additionally, the building would include a kitchen operating from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., providing breakfast and lunch to residents but serving meals to the public from 3 to 5 p.m. as a restaurant that provides job-training opportunities for residents and an amenity for the neighborhood. Off-street parking is also included.

Constructed in 1912, the historic brick-and-steel-frame three-story school, with a two-story addition for an auditorium and gym, has been vacant since it closed in 2003. The Matt Urban Center started developing the project and seeking funding five years ago, but only finalized financing this year from several city and state agencies.

As with the Kensington Apartments, the Planning Board had approved it two years ago, as a $10.25 million project, but that expired. The Zoning Board of Appeals already approved an extension.

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