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Housing planned for another long-closed Buffalo school

Mike Desmond
Plans are for the former School 78 to be converted to housing.

With yet another long-closed Buffalo Public School building slated to be sold for conversion to housing, neighbors aren't sure it's good for their East Side neighborhood, already dealing with parking issues and low water pressure.

School 78 is on Olympic Avenue, one of the many brick community landmarks across Buffalo. They were closed as the school district population dropped from the one-time high near 100,000 students.

Ben Gustafson from Hunt EAS is handling the $16 million project converting School 78 to affordable housing.

"It's a three-story building converting into 47 affordable housing units. Eight of those units will be specifically slotted for people with physical disabilities. It's for families, individuals," Gustafson said. "There's going to be two two-bedroom units and then 45 one-bedroom units, maximum two people in each bedroom."

Many school buildings have already been converted, like School 63 on Minnesota Avenue and School 77 on Plymouth Avenue. District Common Councilmembers say the conversion has been good for their neighborhoods.

"It's been a very positive impact," said Councilmember Rasheed Wyatt about the conversion of School 63 into housing. "We took a vacant building that was vacant for a number of years and we converted it and it's now a viable asset in our district. I think it's benefitted greatly."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Council Majority Leader David Rivera helped with the conversion of School 77 on Plymouth into housing and a home for a theater company.

"Oh, it's definitely been a positive, Rivera said. "We took a building that was shuttered and we opened it, turned the lights on, brought people into it, and now it's being used for mixed use. We have not-for-profits on the first floor. We have affordable housing for seniors on the other three floors."

However, Tommie Babbs from the Burlington Avenue Block Club Association listed difficulties from continuing water pressure problems in the neighborhood to not enough parking, saying there wasn't enough parking when School 78 was open and he didn't think there would be enough for residents and visitors.

The project relies on key state financing and CDS Monarch out of Webster, NY, which fulfills transitional employement needs for people with developmental disabilities and their familes, won't know if the funding comes through until May 2019.

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.