Proposal for senior housing clashes with Linwood Ave residents

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A $7 million redevelopment project is clashing with residents living in the historic district.

Preserving Buffalo’s history is a top priority for those that live in the Linwood Avenue neighborhood.

The Episcopal Diocese of Western New York has plans to turn the property into affordable senior housing.

The church as been vacant since 2015.

“When the ascension parish essentially moved to a different location in January of 2015, the diocese was left with the church building and the grounds,” said Phil Pantano, a spokesperson for the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York.

The current proposal would transform the basement of the church into 28 apartment units and a new building would be constructed on the west side of the property to include more apartment units. The sanctuary would be retained. The apartments would target people over the age of 55, living on a low or fixed income.

The proposal, however, is drawing concerns from people who live in the neighborhood. Neighbors and preservationists say the new building would taint the historic fabric of the community.

“I don’t really like what they’re doing with the front of the building, I think it’s going to detract from the historical nature,” said Paul Visco, Linwood Avenue resident.

Rendering for the affordable housing proposal for the former Episcopal church.

“I think it’s more of the addition on the front that they’ve been talking about, it just doesn’t seem to fit in with the neighborhood at all. I’m kind of concerned about parking, how they’re going to be handling that, I’d rather not have this all be parking or anything like that,” said Joe Herzig, Linwood Avenue resident.

Residents say it’s not senior housing that’s causing a concern.

“We’re not anti senior housing, we’re not anti middle class housing, we’re anti that thing (new construction building). I don’t really know why we need to put one of those 1970’s aluminum cubes down. It’s a bad way to clutter up a beautiful historic spot,” said Erin Kelly, Linwood Avenue homeowner.

Pantano told News 4 they received a lot of feedback from neighbors and are reviewing the comments that were submitted. He says the diocese is committed to giving the space new life and the project extends the mission of the church.

“It addresses the need, which is the lack of affordable housing in the City of Buffalo,” said Pantano.

The project was approved for historic tax credits by the National Park Service. The project is waiting for approval for low income tax credits.

The next step is to take the proposal to the city for the review process which is expected this fall.

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