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ground breakingTownhouse project gives Fruit Belt new life

Local officials gather to break ground on townhouse project
BY: Emma Sapong / News Business Reporter

Ground was broken Friday on new low-income townhouses hailed as part of the ongoing transformation of the Fruit Belt and the neighboring medical corridor.

Construction of the $15.3 million, 49-unit project is under way on Maple Street and is slated to be completed in June 2014.

The townhouses are a faith-based initiative, being developed by the St. John Fruit Belt Community Development Corp., an autonomous arm of St. John Baptist Church, with funding from
city, state and federal sources.

Lawmakers from all levels of government gathered at the construction site to celebrate the official groundbreaking for the project. Many touted it as being in step with development taking place at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

"It's nothing short of extraordinary," said Mayor Byron W. Brown.

While other medical campuses around the country have developed and thrived while their surrounding neighborhoods remained blighted, the mayor said that won't be the case in Buffalo.

"As we see growth in the medical corridor, we'll see growth in the Fruit Belt," he said.

The development will include 22 buildings on 17 sites with two-, three- and four-bedroom townhouses. Their design will be in line with the neighborhood's architecture. Rent will be $500 for the two-bedroom, $550 for the three-bedroom
and $600 for the four-bedroom units.

Five years ago, various development efforts, like the waterfront and the medical corridor, were viewed separately, but Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, said they've merged and are gaining ground.

The city has allocated $2.75 million in HOME funds to the project. Additional funding includes $10 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the New York State Homes and Community Renewal and $2.4 million from the New York State HOME program.

About $9.2 million in private equity investment is being provided by Key Community Development Corp., and construction financing is coming from M&T Bank.

"We're here to celebrate this opportunity to put the Fruit Belt back on the right track," said Darryl Towns, commissioner and chief executive officer of the state Department of Homes and Community Renewal.

The project is part of St. John's $500 million revitalization of the Fruit Belt neighborhood through its various community development corporations. The church has a tradition of community
development and is one of several East Side churches with projects under way.

The Rev. Michael Chapman, pastor of the church and consulting CEO of the Fruit Belt development corporation, released a statement saying:

"This is an important step in our ongoing efforts to help improve the quality of life in the Fruit Belt and Buffalo. Construction of these townhomes is leading to new employment opportunities for neighborhood residents."

 
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