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Olympic Avenue apartments will transform vacant historic Public School 78 into 46 affordable homes and community space
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday announced “substantial rehabilitation work” has begun at Buffalo's former Public School 78 to transform the vacant building into 46 affordable apartments and space for community programs and services. The $19 million Olympic Avenue Apartments will be energy-efficient and will offer residents free Wi-Fi and technical support as part of the state's efforts to close the digital divide.
"We will continue to confront the housing crisis with projects like this that build high-quality affordable housing, improve the lives of residents, and strengthen neighborhoods," Hochul said. "Our investments in the sustainable redevelopment of vacant and underutilized historic buildings across the state continue to complement well-planned revitalization and growth in cities like Buffalo. All New Yorkers deserve to live in healthy, affordable and vibrant communities, and we will continue to take bold action to tackle the housing crisis and make the Empire State a more affordable place for all."
Olympic Avenue Apartments is part of Hochul's plans to make housing more affordable, equitable and stable. This year, the state is poised to reach the goal under its current housing plan of creating and preserving 100,000 affordable homes, and has already exceeded the goal of creating 6,000 units with support services. Hochul is building on this effort with a proposal for a new $25 billion, five-year housing plan that will create and preserve an additional 100,000 affordable homes across New York, including 10,000 with support services.
Built in 1927, PS 78 is listed on both the state and national registers of historic places, and most recently housed a Montessori School.
The City of Buffalo selected CDS Monarch to redevelop the building as affordable housing. The school's auditorium will become a community center where local nonprofits will provide services and programs targeted to residents, surrounding neighborhoods and community members.
The rehabilitation of PS 78 will create 43 one-bedroom and three two-bedroom apartments. Eight apartments will be set aside and specially constructed to accommodate people with physical disabilities. All apartments will be affordable to households earning at or below 60% of the area median income.
Essential work includes installing a new roof with green features; new mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire alarm systems; new furnaces with cooling coils and split system condensing units located on the roof; and energy-efficient doors, windows and storm windows throughout. The planned work for the 1.8-acre site includes the addition of new sidewalks, a stormwater system, site lighting, a new playground and native landscaping, and a community garden.
Each apartment will be equipped with all Energy Star or equivalent appliances, energy-efficient lighting, and water-saving plumbing fixtures. The development will provide free Wi-Fi, giving each resident a unique Wi-Fi network, available in their apartment as well as anywhere in the building, along with 24/7 IT management on-call services.
Additional amenities include a community room with a kitchen; computer room and exercise rooms; storage space; and laundry facilities on the first and third floors. There will also be a dedicated patio with benches and picnic tables for outdoor gatherings.
State financing for the Olympic Avenue Apartments includes Low Income Housing Tax Credits that will generate $9.6 million in equity, and $2.4 million in subsidy from New York State Homes and Community Renewal. The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation allocated federal and state historic tax credits that will generate $5.4 million in equity. Empire State Development awarded $500,000 from the Better Buffalo Fund, and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will provide $46,000 in support.
Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "The $19 million conversion of historic PS 78 into a green and digitally connected community will create the kind of safe, secure, good-quality, affordable housing that all New Yorkers need and deserve. By carefully rehabilitating the long-vacant school, we are restoring its rightful place as a community asset that will once again serve east side residents. Over the last decade, the state has invested more than $300 million in Buffalo to build and preserve affordable homes that are helping the city rebuild, grow stronger and prosper. Thanks to CDS Monarch and our state and city partners, future generations will remember this building as the place they called home."
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "This former public school played a significant role in the growth of this Buffalo neighborhood during the 20th century before ceasing operations in 2008. As part of our mission here at (State) Parks to protect and preserve the state's historic heritage, our agency listed this property on the State Register of Historic Places in 2019, and a year later, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which made it eligible for the historic tax credits that are supporting this project. This work will make this historic building once again an asset to this community."
NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, "NYSERDA is proud to support transforming this historic building into affordable housing that features energy efficiency, sustainable design, and will benefit residents with enhanced comfort and livability, while providing onsite services. The adaptive reuse of this structure, combined with new appliances and lighting that can lower energy bills and provide savings that add up over time, helps to create a stronger and healthier community and ensures that all New Yorkers benefit from our clean energy transition."
ESD Acting Commissioner and President and CEO designate Hope Knight said, "The reimagining of Buffalo's former Public School 78 as affordable apartments and community space will breathe new life into a historic building and encourage density and economic development along an important city corridor. The Better Buffalo Fund's continued support for projects like the Olympic Avenue Development is crucial to the renovation of residential and commercial areas that leverages private investment and transforms communities."
CDS Life Transitions President and COO Andrew Sewnauth said, "The Olympic Avenue Apartments project is an exciting opportunity to further our mission to offer affordable housing throughout New York state. High-quality, safe, affordable housing is a basic right, and CDS Monarch is grateful to state and local government officials for their support to ensure everyone is empowered with the opportunity to live their best lives in their own community without worry. We look forward to a bright future here in Buffalo and are excited by the opportunities to serve more individuals in this community and across the state."
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, "Projects like this help to stabilize neighborhoods and build stronger communities. Not only is the former PS 78 going to have new life as bustling and much-needed affordable housing, the greatly improved campus will be an efficient and attractive addition to the Olympic Avenue area. This project is a big win for the neighborhood and for Buffalo."
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, "This is another step forward in increasing the availability of affordable housing in the City of Buffalo, and a tremendous reuse of another idle, former Buffalo public school. I thank Gov. Hochul, our state lawmakers, and the New York State Homes and Community Renewal for making yet another affordable housing project possible, and CDS Monarch for investing here in the City of Buffalo."
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, "The start of construction on the former PS 78 building, to be repurposed into 46 affordable apartments in Buffalo's east side, is a great use of the New York State Homes and Community Renewal resources to help revitalize our community. I applaud Gov. Kathy Hochul, CDS Monarch Development, and all the other community stakeholders, whose leadership contributed to making this project a reality."
New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, "The extensive reuse and transformation of PS 78 is yet another example of New York's commitment to supporting affordable housing opportunities statewide. By investing in sustainable, accessible projects like this one, we're not only preserving a piece of Buffalo's past, but we're creating a community-centered space that residents will be able to call home for years to come."