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Construction kicks off on new Westminster Commons for seniors

Construction is now underway on a senior housing and healthcare project on the city's East Side.

The project also takes the Westminster Settlement House, originally built in 1893, and converts it into a community service facility for both residents and the community.

The Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers kicked off construction Friday on its Westminster Commons, a $22.8 million project that will offer 84 affordable and supportive homes for adults 55 and older, along with health-oriented community services, in a new four-story building at 421 Monroe St. The apartments are designated for households earning at or below 60 percent of the area median income, while 40 units will be reserved for seniors with a history of mental illness, who will receive onsite support.

The renovated Westminster Settlement House will offer a certified senior adult day care program, a medical clinic, a pharmacy, physical rehabilitative services and office space.

The two buildings will be connected through an interior link to make it easier for residents to access the services.

"This historic structure is being renovated to once again become an integral part of providing residents a hand up by offering much needed human services for community residents," said federation CEO Ricardo Herrera, calling the project a "long-time vision come true" for the nonprofit agency.

"We wanted residents to feel that they are part of a thriving community comparable to suburban senior communities. Our wish, as a developer, is to develop a community that provided quality and modern housing options, was walkable, and where senior residents would have access to medical care and other enriching activities."

The project is heavily funded by the state and federal governments, with federal low-income housing tax credits that will yield $14 million in equity, plus another $3 million subsidy from New York State Homes and Community Renewal.

"The Westminster Commons affordable housing development continues our commitment to moving Buffalo's East Side forward with new housing investment - creating a renewed sense of hope for residents," said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in a news release. "Everyone deserves the dignity of a great home, and this is especially important for seniors who need access to healthcare and support services."

There are also federal and state historic tax credits, plus additional financing from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and HOME funds through the City of Buffalo.

"Westminster Commons continues our commitment to bringing high-quality affordable housing opportunities to Buffalo's East Side," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in the release. "These 84 new homes for seniors will provide easy access to healthcare and supportive services and help these residents live independently."

The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance provided another $3.4 million through the Homeless Housing Assistance Program, while the state Office of Mental Health will provide project-based rental subsidies and services for tenants of 26 apartments through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative.

The state has invested more than $112 million just on Buffalo's East Side to build or preserve 1,200 affordable housing units for 2,700 people, according to the release.

The Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers is working with Rochester-based Cornerstone Group Ltd. as co-developer of the project, which also involved Rhonda Ricks' R+A+R Development Inc. as a consultant prior to her death earlier this year. The project was designed by Carmina Wood Morris PC and is being built by RP Oak Hill Building Company Inc.

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