If a $20 million renovation wasn't enough, now McCarley Gardens is poised to get a $140 million expansion that will more than double the size of the low-income housing complex just south of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, while also restoring North Oak Street's original grid path.
BFC Partners, a Brooklyn-based affordable housing developer, is already working with McCarley's owner, St. John Baptist Church, on a rehab of the existing 15-acre campus. That includes adding 15 new units to the 135 that will be renovated.
But now BFC is proposing to double-down on its venture, adding another 212 "affordable and workforce housing units" in a new six-story mixed-use building. It would also build structured parking for 250 cars on the first floor and part of the basement, plus 24,000 square feet of first-floor space for neighborhood retail services.
On top of a similar redevelopment and expansion planned for Pilgrim Village on the north side of the Medical Campus, that represents a major increase in the amount of affordable housing in the area that bridges downtown Buffalo and the East Side, while also bringing more parking and retail services such as grocery stores and other neighborhood shopping to a community that currently lacks it.
“We are excited to partner with St. John Baptist Church on this important effort to upgrade and improve McCarley Gardens,” said Donald Capoccia, principal of BFC Partners.
He added, “This site has been at the heart of the Buffalo community for 40 years, and through this new effort, we will ensure it continues to serve longtime residents and future families for generations to come with affordable rents. Through this new partnership, we will be able to provide comprehensive upgrades, including critical heating improvements, and sustainable features to reduce the campus’s reliance on fossil fuels.”
The 265,680-square-foot building would be constructed on a 1.63-acre site that would be rezoned in the northwest corner of McCarley Gardens. Currently, that's where Oak Street now curves westward to link up with Ellicott, but instead, that street would be restored to its northbound route to intersect with Virginia Street. That will separate the new building from the rest of McCarley, while enhancing traffic around the medical campus, officials said.
"It takes a roadway, which is inefficient and is a road to nowhere, and puts it back to right angles with Virginia, which makes it a more serviceable road," said architect Steven Carmina of Carmina Wood Morris. "I know from driving it that it really doesn’t do much for the traffic patterns on the campus."
Besides a rezoning and site plan review, the project also needs subdivision approval because the parcels are being realigned, but no variances.
Built in 1978 and formally owned by the church's Oak-Michigan Housing Development, McCarley Gardens is located at 818 Michigan Ave., across from the St. John Baptist campus, just above the terminus of the Kensington Expressway. It's bounded by Michigan and Goodell, North Oak and Virginia streets, with a small part of Ellicott Street.
The garden-style apartment complex currently has 149 two-, three- and four-bedroom units – supported by federal Section 8 subsidies – for tenants earning less than 80% of the area median income of $63,100 for a family of four. But it's dated.
In the first phase of BFC's project – designed by Carmina Wood Morris and already approved by the city – the developer plans to renovate 135 of the units while constructing 15 new two-story, three-bedroom units on grassy lawn and parking areas around the perimeter of the campus. Tenant improvements will include new kitchens with upgraded appliances, fixtures, cabinets and countertops, as well as new bathroom fixtures, new flooring and new paint. No one will be displaced by the infill project, and the units will remain under Section 8 subsidy.
The full redevelopment is expected to be completed in time for the 100th anniversary of the founding of St. John Baptist Church in 1927.