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People Inc. to convert Williamsville's Blocher Homes to mixed-income housing

Fifty senior residents of the Blocher Homes in Williamsville will have to find new housing to make way for People Inc.'s planned $29 million transformation of the site into affordable apartments.

People Inc. plans to convert the 49-year-old assisted living residence into 87 one- and two-bedroom apartments for people of all ages who meet income requirements, as well as some residents with disabilities who are able to live independently.

The expanded facility at 135 Evans St. would be known as Blocher Apartments. The project requires state and village approval and work would start next summer at the earliest.

"There is very little mixed-income, affordable housing in the Village of Williamsville," said Jocelyn Bos, People Inc.'s vice president of housing development.

Blocher Homes has provided senior living space since 1906 and the current building opened in 1970. Blocher affiliated with the Beechwood Continuing Care senior community in 1977 and now offers assisted living housing for 50 seniors.

People Inc. and Blocher began discussing the plans with Blocher residents and neighbors over the past couple of weeks. Blocher is in negotiations to sell the 5.3-acre property to People Inc., Blocher spokeswoman Cheryl Wasson said.

People Inc. would convert the existing structure into 39 housing units and build an extension of the building that would add 48 units, for just under 100 tenants, said Bos.

Residents who earn between 50% and 90% of the area's median income would be eligible to live there, along with a small number of people with disabilities. The building primarily would draw from the Williamsville and Amherst markets, Bos said.

She said there's a need for this kind of affordable housing in Williamsville.

"I completely support their mission and what they're trying to do," said Mayor Deb Rogers, who once worked as a service coordinator for People Inc.

Rogers said there's an unfortunate "stigma" attached to People Inc. but she hasn't yet heard complaints from village residents about the project. The site is just to the west of Village Pointe Lane, a road along an escarpment that boasts some of Amherst's priciest homes.

Wasson said Blocher will work closely with its residents to make sure they can find suitable alternative housing. She said Beechwood will encourage Blocher residents to move to Beechwood's continuing care campus on Millersport Highway and the organization intends to charge those who do move the same monthly fee they paid at Blocher.

The project must receive variances from the village Zoning Board of Appeals and site plan approval from the village Planning Board. State regulators also must sign off on it.

Blocher and People Inc. representatives on Monday presented project details to the village Planning Board, though no vote was taken. They will address the Zoning Board on Wednesday.

Work would begin next summer or fall and take about 15 months before the first residents can move in, Bos said, likely in 2021.

 

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