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$13 million project would provide apartments for low-income seniors in Amherst

An agency that helps people find affordable housing wants to construct a $13 million, 46-unit apartment building for seniors in Amherst.

Belmont Housing Resources for Western New York would construct a three-story building on a site at the corner of Alberta Drive and Amsterdam Avenue just south of Ashley HomeStore, according to a proposal filed with the town Planning Department.

"There's definitely a strong demand and need for affordable senior housing in this area," said Brad Packard, Belmont's director of housing development.

The site is made up of five parcels and is vacant except for a former Eggertsville Hose Co. substation that closed about 20 years ago. Today it's primarily used to store maintenance and other equipment.

Belmont would tear down the former substation and construct an L-shaped building with 38 one-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom apartments on its three floors, said Scott Marshall, an associate planner with the town.

A conceptual plan calls for leaving 0.7 acres of the 1.5-acre site open space. Belmont expects work to begin in October 2019 and to wrap up in November 2020.

The former fire company building is at 70 Amsterdam Ave., owned by the Benchmark Group. Four other parcels are owned by Niasher Realty, according to the application.

GAR Associates conducted a market study on Belmont's behalf that found no affordable senior housing was built in the previous decade in an 8.4-square-mile primary market area of 31,000 households bounded by Ellicott Creek to the north, Kenmore Avenue to the south, North Forest Road to the east and Colvin Boulevard to the west.

GAR said there are "very few options" for Amherst's low-income seniors, whose population is growing. The consultant said the proposed location is appealing because it is near Wegmans, the Boulevard Mall and the commercial corridors of Sheridan Drive and Maple Road, and it's also along a bus route on Alberta Drive.

The report does raise the potential of neighborhood opposition. The site is surrounded by commercial properties and apartments but there are single-family homes to the east. Packard said he believes the project's scale is appropriate to the neighborhood.

The parcels are zoned general business and would require a zoning change to multi-family residential for the project to proceed. The town Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the request on Thursday, Aug. 16. The Planning Board makes a recommendation on the rezoning before the Town Board has the final say.

This would be Belmont's first ground-up project in the town. But the agency has worked in Amherst for years. In addition to building affordable housing, Belmont also buys, rehabilitates and resells houses and administers the Section 8 voucher program for renters.

Belmont expects to use state tax credits to pay for this project.

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