$2.3 Million Transformation of Vacant Massachusetts Avenue Building into Nine Affordable Homes with Ground Floor Arts and Cultural Center
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the start of construction at 417 Massachusetts Avenue, a vacant, fire-damaged building that will be transformed into nine affordable apartments with ground floor commercial space. The ground level will also feature WASH Project Laundromat—a laundry facility that doubles as an arts and cultural center. The project is part of PUSH Buffalo’s expansive Green Development Zone revitalization plan to focus significant community reinvestment and redevelopment activity on a 30-block area on Buffalo’s West Side.
“Access to affordable, stable housing is a basic human right for all New Yorkers and through development projects like this one we are a step closer to reaching the goals of our comprehensive housing plan,” Governor Cuomo said. “This significant investment will deliver affordable homes and essential community services to Buffalo’s West Side, assisting those who need it most while helping the entire neighborhood grow and thrive.”
“As part of our ongoing commitment to invest in Buffalo’s neighborhoods, we are proud to provide funding for the GDZ Homes project to expand the availability of affordable housing on the West Side,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who spoke at today’s groundbreaking. “This new energy efficient building will not only ensure more housing options for local residents, it will also create a community space to provide services for the city’s growing immigrant and refugee populations. The Massachusetts Avenue community has been transformed thanks to dedicated local organizations like PUSH Buffalo, and New York State will continue to provide the resources needed to move this vibrant area forward.”
Governor Cuomo’s commitment to creating and preserving safe, affordable housing is reflected in the State’s unprecedented $20 billion, five-year Housing Plan to make housing accessible and combat homelessness by building or preserving more than 100,000 affordable homes and 6,000 with supportive services. The plan is a comprehensive approach to statewide housing issues and includes multifamily and single-family housing and community development. Since 2011, HCR has invested more than $274 million in the Western New York region that has created or preserved affordable housing for nearly 9,250 residents, including more than 4,900 people in the City of Buffalo.
The GDZ Homes redevelopment project will completely renovate and reconfigure the vacant, fire-damaged structure at 417 Massachusetts Avenue into nine new two-bedroom apartments on the upper two floors with commercial space below. Rents for GDZ Homes’ apartments will range from $600 to $900 a month and are affordable to households with incomes at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income.
The ground floor commercial space will house the WASH Project Laundromat and Cultural Arts Center. More than a place to do laundry, WASH incorporates cultural and arts programming, with art, music and literacy programs, and will serve as an access point for information regarding a wide range of community services and other cultural opportunities. Many of the programs the WASH Project provides are targeted to members of the neighborhood’s diverse refugee populations.
HCR financing for the GDZ Homes redevelopment includes $1.7 million in New York State HOME Program funds and $309,210 from the Community Investment Fund. Additional financing is being provided by the Federal Home Loan Bank and the NYS Energy Research Development Authority.
HCR has worked with PUSH Buffalo and the Buffalo Neighborhood Stabilization Company on other West Buffalo developments, including the $14.7 million effort to transform the vacant former City of Buffalo Public School 77 into a community hub with 30 affordable apartments for seniors. The renovated building, which opened in 2017, is the first community solar project in New York State to offer discounted energy entirely to low-income subscribers; maximize living wage solar installation and maintenance job opportunities for disadvantaged workers; and provide residents with a say in the allocation of revenue generated by the sale of solar subscriptions.
Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “Rebuilding neighborhoods and reclaiming community pride is central to the Governor’s affordable housing plan. On Buffalo’s West Side, we’ve worked with PUSH Buffalo and our other partners to identify and invest in large and small projects that not only promote these goals but set the stage for continued growth and future prosperity. GDZ Homes is part of this larger effort: transforming vacant properties into healthy homes and a safe gathering place where neighbors can come together as a community.”
Senator Tim Kennedy said, “GDZ Homes will be another piece in the puzzle of the growth of this culturally rich neighborhood. Congratulations to PUSH Buffalo on the beginning of yet another successful project and thank you to New York State Homes & Community Renewal for their commitment to continued investment and improvement in the City of Buffalo.”
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, “This is an amazing project for our West side neighborhood. There is a tremendous need for affordable housing in Western New York, and any project that wants to provide that housing while including a cultural center for the community to gather together will be a tremendous asset to the West side. I’m excited to see this project come to life and look forward to working with the future residents to continue the growth we’ve seen on the West side.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “Massachusetts Avenue is at the core of Buffalo’s West Side, and the redevelopment of 417 Massachusetts will bring new vitality and new families to the neighborhood. This project is development done right, located in a walkable community and adding affordable housing to the neighborhood mix.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said, “My administration is pleased to take a leadership role in creating affordable housing opportunities across the City of Buffalo. We are pleased to work with New York State Homes and Community Renewal, PUSH Buffalo and the WASH Project on the innovative GDZ Homes project, which is benefiting from a PILOT agreement with the City. This project will bring new affordable apartments on Buffalo’s West Side, adding to the more than 2,000 affordable units which my administration has helped bring to the market since 2006.”
City Councilmember David Rivera said, “This Project is the epitome of how we want development to happen in our neighborhoods. First it will have quality, energy efficient, affordable homes. Second it will reactivate a much needed community business that serves many immediate area residents. Third it serves as a gathering space that celebrates the valuable diversity to ensure old traditions are not lost and new residents are welcomed in. Thank you to PUSH Buffalo and the WASH Project for continuing to expand the boundaries of what development looks like. Thank you to my colleagues in local and state government for supporting creative projects.”
Rahwa Ghirmatzion, Executive Director of PUSH Buffalo, said, “PUSH is thrilled to break ground on another community-controlled redevelopment project in the Green Development Zone. Once the project is completed, the WASH Project will reopen its doors at its original location and again serve as a critical social and cultural hub for immigrant and refugee community members. The return of WASH’s community laundromat to Massachusetts Ave. will make the organization more economically resilient. The addition of 9 units of green affordable housing at the site will make a lasting contribution to PUSH’s efforts to combat gentrification and displacement on the West Side, while the inclusion of 17kw solar array will serve as another example of energy democracy in action.”
Zaw Win, Founder of the WASH Project, said, “It is very great to upgrade the building to meet the needs of the community and neighborhood in the West Side area, especially for low income people living in this area. Neighbors are so excited about the reopening of Wash Project and community laundromat and they can’t wait to see the new version. I am also planning to put in brand new equipment. My dream is coming true for the West Side, which is now better than ever, and I will always try my upmost to support our community and neighbors.”