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Developer airs latest plan to revitalize Buffalo's Pilgrim Village

The latest plan for replacing the 40-year-old Pilgrim Village complex, located on the edge of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, drew a small crowd Tuesday.

The complex has been deteriorating for years, as plans came and went for a replacement to the low-rise buildings on the site. Some buildings were demolished for plans which fell through.

Florida-based developer SAA|EVI staged the explanation of its latest plan on the Fosdick Field site in front of City Honors High School, looking down toward Pilgrim Village. While SAA|EVI Managing Partner Ernst Valery would not say how much the proposal will cost, it clearly will be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
There is much open land next the Pilgrim Village (seen on the far left), ready to develop.

Valery said the goal is to find support in the community.

"We think we can have all this support and we hope to have everyone's support and be able to move forward and finalize plans and within a year be able to start something that's transformational and respectful of the community that's already here."

If everything falls into place, SAA|EVI will build 98 units of senior housing and 132 units of family housing in two large five-story buildings, along with amenities, a community center and some retail space.

School Board Member Terrance Heard said the community needs this project to hold on to residents.

"That's a key point in this neighborhood right now, because all of this development, this sort of development in the Ellicott District, we need something to retain the people who really live here and work here," Heard said, "and now we've the opportunity to work with those people so they won't be displaced. Here, they're home. Their families grew up in this area and grandparents grew up in this area, and keeping that type of solidarity amongst people that lived here."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

The project is not universally popular among current residents who have lived through prior plans, although SAA|EVI said they will not be pushed off the property as the large new buildings are built.

Resident Alexis Howard said there has not been enough disclosure of the plan. She also did not like the apartment building look of the homes when finished, compared to the townhomes currently there.

"We don't have our own individual houses with that," said Howard. "We lose a lot of space with that, meaning that we will have to consolidate a lot of things that either for those who have basements will have to lose. And we don't have a front door-back door, so which means if I don't want to see anybody on a day-to-day basis, I now have to travel up and down wherever I'm at and still see a majority of the people. We're not accustomed to that."

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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