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Cigar Factory Apartments photo courtesy of the Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Cigar Factory Apartments photo courtesy of the Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

Grand-opening of $2.4 million affordable housing development in Buffalo


Thu, Aug 11th 2022 08:45 am

Cigar Factory Apartments creates new affordable homes and commercial space in east Buffalo

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the completion of a $2.4 million mixed-use development that brings 11 affordable homes and new commercial space to Buffalo's east side. Cigar Factory Apartments consists of the redevelopment of the historic Jankowski Cigar Factory site, and the new construction of an adjacent building.

"This development is a major component of our commitment to doing right by east Buffalo," Hochul said. "Thanks to $2 million in state funding, the Cigar Factory Apartments have transformed an old cigar plant into beautiful, safe, affordable homes. With today's grand opening, in addition to the $50 million to support homeowners and revitalize commercial districts, we are investing in east Buffalo to uplift the entire community."

A press release said, “The Cigar Factory Apartments complement Gov. Hochul's sweeping plans to make housing more affordable, equitable, and stable. In the 2022-23 state budget, the governor introduced and successfully secured a new $25 billion, five-year, comprehensive housing plan that will increase housing supply by creating or preserving 100,000 affordable homes across New York, including 10,000 with support services for vulnerable populations, plus the electrification of an additional 50,000 homes.”

The Cigar Factory Apartments includes seven one-bedroom and four two-bedroom apartments, plus a small ground-floor coffee shop. All apartments are affordable to households with incomes below 50% of the area median income.

The cigar factory site, located at 595 Fillmore Ave., was purchased by Broadway Fillmore Neighborhood Housing Services (BFNHS) in 2015, but much of the building was destroyed by fire a few weeks later. BFNHS was able to save two buildings at the rear of the property, including a brick building where tobacco leaves were cured and prepared for rolling. BFNHS subsequently acquired the adjacent site at 591 Filmore.

This development sits at the primary gateway to Buffalo's historic Central Terminal, which will soon be redeveloped with over $60 million in State Regional Revitalization Partnership (RRP) funding the governor announced in June, and is near the century-old Broadway Market, which will also receive $37 million for capital improvements from the RRP.

State financing for Cigar Factory Apartments included $1.9 million in HOME Local Program funding and $40,000 from the Rural and Urban Community Investment Fund from New York State Homes and Community Renewal. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has committed $11,000 in support through its Low-rise Residential New Construction program. HomeFront provided $160,000 and the City of Buffalo provided $11,000.

Hochul previously announced $50 million of targeted investments as part of the state's ongoing efforts to address the immediate needs of the east Buffalo community in the wake of the shooting at Tops Supermarket on May 14.

Hochul’s team said, “Historic redlining and modern predatory lending practices have significantly destabilized housing in east Buffalo and stymied the ability for individuals, families, and the community to build wealth. The state has taken immediate steps to assist struggling homeowners in east Buffalo with an investment of $34.5 million.”

That includes:

√ $20 million for New York State Homes and Community Renewal and the Department of Taxation and Finance to serve up to 4,000 homeowners in need of tax, water and sewage arrears assistance.

√ $10 million to serve up to 1,000 homeowners with homes in need of serious repairs.

√ $4.5 million to serve up to 150 homeowners who will have access to down payment assistance.

Hochul recently announced applications opened for these comprehensive housing programs supporting residents of east Buffalo. Residents can call 211 to learn about housing programs and how to apply.

New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "Cigar Factory Apartments are a valuable component of the state's ongoing investment in Buffalo's east side. This development provides safe and comfortable affordable homes for the 11 households who now live here, and has created valuable commercial space at a strategic location in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood. We applaud Gov. Hochul for her ongoing commitment to the eastside community, and thank our partners at Broadway Fillmore Neighborhood Housing Services for their support in making this development possible."

Doreen M. Harris, president and CEO at NYSERDA, said, "With the grand opening of Cigar Factory Apartments, residents of Buffalo's east side now have greater access to affordable housing that is energy efficient and environmentally responsible, demonstrating historic buildings can be brought into a clean energy future. NYSERDA is pleased to support this project, and others like it, to ensure that New York's most vulnerable citizens are benefiting from the State's transition to a carbon-neutral economy with healthy, resilient and climate-friendly buildings to live in."

Stephen Karnath, executive director of Broadway-Fillmore NHS Inc. and HomeFront Inc. said, "This project has overcome a lot of obstacles to get to this day, including a devastating fire shortly after we acquired it, and a pandemic which significantly slowed the pace of construction. It may be a small project, but we believe it can be transformational. It echoes its past as a cigar store and family home, and it offers a gateway to the future of the Broadway Fillmore neighborhood."

New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, "This project is yet another example of what can be achieved when we commit to preserving our city's past and incorporating it into the vibrant future we're building. Through the vision of Broadway-Fillmore Neighborhood Housing Services Executive Director Stephen Karnath and Carmina Wood Morris, and the support of New York state, this site is coming alive once again, and turning a historic structure into a community-centered space."

Mayor Byron Brown said, "I congratulate Broadway Fillmore Neighborhood Housing Services for its tenacity in completing this affordable housing and retail project. Converting the former Jankowski Cigar Factory into residences was a daunting effort, but overcoming the 2015 fire required a commitment that went above and beyond. This development, located at the gateway to the Buffalo Central Terminal, is an important addition to overall city and New York state efforts to revitalize the Broadway Fillmore corridor and east Buffalo."

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