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$50 million housing project planned for old Buffalo Forge site

If you head east on Broadway from downtown Buffalo, you won't go very far before you see a very large tract of green grass on your left. That seemingly open land near an old theater may be the eventual home of 189  housing units.
Developers are calling it The Forge on Broadway. The name is in remembrance of the vast industrial complex once on the land. That was Buffalo Forge, a pioneer in ventilation and air conditioning and eventually sold out of town, with the building left to rot for decades before being demolished.

Wednesday night, the developers were in the nearby historic Michigan Street Baptist Church to talk about their latest plan, revised after neighborhood comments. Developer Stuart Alexander said it would be housing for workers, especially those who want to walk to the medical campus.

"It's going to be 80% of the median income for some of it and 60% for other," Alexander said. "It's workforce housing. It's not affordable housing, per se. It's for people who are employed in the corridor, people who cannot afford $2,000 a month rent for what's being built downtown now."

While some of the property is being reserved for future community requests, the current plan is for 159 apartments,  25 town houses and five individual homes.

Alexander said there is a lot of process to go through to finance the project, pegged at around $50 million. He said the plan calls for construction to start early next year, probably by digging up the contaminated site using brownfield tax credits.

Developer Rhonda Ricks said it will be a wellness community, offering healthy food stores and healthy homes and plenty of space for exercise - in the style of Buffalo's Elmwood Village.

"This site that we are putting together reminds me of, if you look between West Ferry and West Utica and then where it has all the commercial that comes up to the sidewalk on Elmwood, but then the residential is the next block over which is Richmond," Ricks said. "That's exactly what we are doing on the East Side of Buffalo."

Alexander said the project will become known nationally.

"Something that everybody can get behind: we are taking a contaminated industrial site that was the mainstay of Buffalo as an industrial city and we are totally turning it around by cleaning the site and creating a health and wellness community," Alexander said. "This is going to be a benchmark for the rest of the country to see and it's going to be something that everybody is proud of."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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