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Rhonda Ricks' housing vision honored, as tenants move into The Forge

Three years ago, the vast piece of urban property running from Broadway and Mortimer was a weed-covered relic of Buffalo's industrial history, once the site of Buffalo Forge. There now is The Forge, a 158-unit apartment building with a giant mural of old and new.

Sunday was Rhonda Ricks' birthday, one she didn't reach because of her death in June of last year from cancer. She was remembered on the site of her largest development, the $51 million The Forge on Broadway, as tenants have started moving into the 158-unit complex of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, complete with a green roof and kids entertainment off the second floor.

Ricks put together an array of programs to finance the project. State Division of Housing and Community Renewal Upstate Development Director Leonard Skrill said Ricks knew what she wanted.

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"How she wanted to create an environment around her business that her kids would do better. I have the advantage. I work for state government. I get a paid, set salary, benefits. I don't have to succeed. I don't have to make more money. I don't have to have better cash flow to succeed, but she did," Skrill said.

Several speakers pointed out the vast mural high on the wall of The Forge by artist Julia Bottons, a mix of the Buffalo Forge gears and the flowers of rebirth, which can be seen as people drive or walk by on Broadway, a symbol of what the apartments mean.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, state Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and family members of Ricks unveiled street signs for Dr. Rhonda Ricks Way. Brown said The Forge is Ricks' legacy.

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"Her legacy will live on, through her many projects," he said. "Her legacy is all over this area, where we are. It's in many other parts of the city and it's in the hearts of so many of us in this community."

"People used to ask me all the time: 'What does your mom do?'" said Ricks' Dominique Washington, "and I just look at 'em and be like, 'It's too much to explain.' It really is. And now you all know. And here we are. This is what my mom does."

And it's not the end of the project, since partners are eyeing the adjacent open area for development, probably townhouses in the near future.

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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