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Historic Tax Credits now helping poorer Buffalo neighborhoods

A chance to redevelop distressed areas of city
Posted: 5:46 PM, Aug 13, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-13 18:19:43-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Buffalo’s Hotel Lafayette, The electric tower and Asbury Hall -- what do these downtown landmarks have in common? They were all restored courtesy of historic tax credits.

And now those credits are making their way into distressed neighborhoods with a number of buildings now getting a second chance.

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Congressman Higgins discusses how Historic Tax Credits are being used in city neighborhoods.

This is finally the part of Buffalo's economic renaissance that many have been waiting for with redevelopment now spreading into the poorest parts of the city thanks to historic tax credits.

Congressman brain Higgins announcing historic tax credits in his district alone have jumped to $1.27 billion.

Higgins noted for the region to reach its full potential a resurgence must reach into the neighborhoods

“Historic tax credits are a crucial piece to the puzzle for neighborhood stabilization and revitalization,” remarked Higgins.

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Former School 57 on Sears Street being redeveloped.

Developer Savarino construction is transforming the former Buffalo Public School #57 building on Sears Street in the city’s Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood into low income housing through the Matt Urban center.

The vacant school building is getting tax credits because it is more than 100-years old and was the first elementary school in the nation to have an in-ground pool.

“A vibrant community asset for education that then became a community eyesore that now is going to morph again, we hope, into a beautiful butterfly,” said Marlies Wesolowski, executive director, Matt Urban Center.

Wesolowski says her organization hurried as an agency to get into the historic tax credits. She noted the former building will no longer be an eyesore for neighbors.

“From being a community eyesore and that's what it was - it had all these broken windows in it, and it was really, really falling apart to something that it's going to be and it's going to be 27-new units of affordable housing,” Wesolowski explained.

The new development will be called Hope House.

Congressman Higgins says 69-percent of those historic tax credits are now making their way into neighborhoods.

Higgins after years of concentration in Buffalo’s downtown core the region is now seeing the use and benefits of historic tax credits – reaching in to our local neighborhoods.

Along with the Broadway Fillmore neighborhood, the historic tax credits include several other structures on both the east and west sides of Buffalo and even into the city of Niagara Falls.

Higgins provided a list of examples of Historic Tax Credit investments in Buffalo neighborhoods include:

  • Humboldt Park Neighborhood: Directly across from Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, a vacant school was transformed into the newly opened Parkview Apartments at 769 Best Street.
  • Larkin District: The Kamman Building at 755 Seneca Street features office, retail and apartments. The F.N. Burt Box Company building at 500 Seneca was reinvented into a mixed-use development with loft apartments, a center atrium, restaurants and retail. The AP Lofts at Larkinville opened on Swan Street where the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Warehouse once operated.
  • Hamlin Park Neighborhood: The Mattress Factory at 170 Florida Street, once home to the Otis Bed Company, opened last year featuring offices and market rate apartments.
  • West Side/Grant Ferry/Forest Neighborhoods: PUSH Buffalo led a successful community driven conversion of School 77 at 429 Plymouth Avenue into affordable senior apartments, community and non-profit space. The Mentholatum building at 1360 Niagara Street now provides loft living opportunities.
  • Grider Neighborhood: The Northland Workforce Training Center at 683 Northland Avenue was made possible thanks to several federal investments including New Markets Tax Credits, Community Development Block Grant Funding and one of the region’s largest recent federal Historic Tax Credit allocations totaling over $13.5 million.
  • Black Rock: A number of properties on Chandler Street, including the former Linde Air Products Factory, the Jewett Refrigerator Company Factory and the Double Trust Cornice Brake Company Factory have all benefited from the Historic Tax Credit program.
  • Broadway-Fillmore: A former school at 243 Sears Street is currently undergoing renovations and is set to open as the Hope House this fall offering family housing.
  • South Buffalo: Two Catholic schools that were closed, have been turned into fresh, new affordable housing with the opening of the School Lofts on Abbott (formerly St. Thomas Aquinas) and the School Lofts @ Seneca (previously St. Theresa’s School). The historic Shea’s Seneca theatre was also brought back to life with the opening of Shea’s Seneca apartments, retail and event space.

The chair of the Historic Tax Credit Coalition, Merrill Hoopengardner, appeared with Higgins.

Hoopengardner said she often uses Buffalo as an “example” of how a city can capitalized on federal and state incentives.

“When I go around the country to speak at different events, I usually say you should be like Buffalo,” Hoopengardner said.

Higgins noted the democratic majority manage to prevent the Administration’s attempts to eliminate the Historic Tax Credits program.

“I think we will always be under threat, but it’s successes like Buffalo…which will bring more people in the coalition to push back on any efforts…to eliminate this program,” Higgins responded.