Towers Down: Heritage Heights Coming Up

You ever see those movies that take place in a post-apocalyptic world?  The buildings are vacant shells with broken windows, surrounded by dead trees and overgrown lawns.  It’s always creepy.  That’s Kensington Tower complex in the East Side of Buffalo.  It looks like a scene straight out of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.  But thanks to the hard work of HLM Holding and Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, the wasteland will be converted into  Heritage Heights retirement community after a year-long demolition process and a two-year build.  

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The site has been vacant since 1979, and you can tell.  Asbestos signs adorn most of the walls, deterring even the most dedicated explorers from venturing inside the buildings which, even without asbestos, are probably home to rats, the threat of tetanus and other problems.

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Hormoz Mansouri, President of HLM Holdings, who will be developing Heritage Heights, was very pleased with the initial clean up of the exterior.  Mansouri has had his eye on it for upwards of 14 years.

Crystal Peoples of the New York State Assembly is hopeful about the future.  “The opportunity to build is more magnificent than tearing the buildings down,” she said.  “Eradicating an eyesore that’s been in our community for 30 years shows that you can be hopeful.  The development of downtown and the East Side of Buffalo shows Buffalo is on the move.”

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Now that the ground upon which the buildings sit is cleaned up for the most part, it’s what’s inside that’s the problem.  “It will take one year to remove the buildings.  All of the asbestos requires a very safe removal method in order to meet EPA standards.  In the 1960′s [when the site was built] asbestos was widely used.” 
A long overdue project with realistic goals.  Let’s see some more.

About the author  ⁄ Dan Fisher

47 comments
MrGreenJeans
MrGreenJeans

Tra la ... and no comment or follow-up, as ALWAYS, from the Buffalo Rising Cheerleading Squad, about the shady contractor's asbestos removal fraud. As expected - you follow-up on NOTHING which might contradict your initial frothy drool.

Buffalo Rising
Buffalo Rising

Parking Over All

Parking, the need for it and the problems it causes, is a common subject in Buffalo development circles. Parking was allegedly a central issue in delays to development of an important and prominent empty parcel on Court Street.  Developer Carl Pa...

skarnath
skarnath

sonyactivism - okay. I concede the point.

KarlMalone
KarlMalone

It seems like such a waste to lose these historically significant buildings. With some new windows and maybe a coat of paint or two these structures would look brand new and continue the very urban fiber we citizens blindly deserve.

When we will all wake up as people and realize we must save everything.

sonyactivision
sonyactivision

"Sarcasm is easy, good design is a challenge, but comedy is always hard."

Actually, judging from those colonnades in the architect's rendering, comedy sure came easy.

skarnath
skarnath

manski - I spent 10 years working at Fillmore-Leroy Area REsidents, Inc. (FLARE), including 5 as Executive Director - from 1979 - 1988. This property is part of the Fillmore-Leroy neighborhood. We pushed for several solutions, but none came to fruition. Several applications were submitted for housing tax credits, but none were funded. I could throw lots of blame around, but it doesn't accomplish anything. It appears that there is finally a developer in place with the combination of financing necessary to redevelop the property. I hope that is true - but sometimes developers make big public announcements in hopes of convincing a major funder to get on board.

Good design drives occupancy, which is essential to long-term operational viability. Poor design - such as the late 1950's cruciform towers that BMHA built - resulted in buildings that were empty in less than 25 years. New gets old fast.

Sarcasm is easy, good design is a challenge, but comedy is always hard.

manski
manski

I think "the least pleasant side of the parcel" is a pretty relative term for this particular parcel:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&q=Fillmore+Ave,+Buffalo,+Erie,+New+York&sll=37.509726,-95.712891&sspn=31.890713,79.013672&ie=UTF8&cd=1&geocode=FauzjgId6QJN-w&split=0&ll=42.926027,-78.83656&spn=0.003614,0.009645&t=h&z=17

Such a dense, urban looking area! Too bad the developers have wasted such a prime opportunity to build to the street and serve the massive amount of foot traffic this section of Fillmore must get. Better yet, build a tower right up to the parking lot to the east and make the rest of the lot a biiiggggg park with lots of sunshine and rainbows. Profits be damned!!! I'm sure the swarming overflow of people that the park directly to the south can't accommodate would appreciate the additional green space in the neighborhood. Plus, with all of the residential buildings so close by it'll be great - no need for parking, they can all walk there.

Seriously though, most of you have some real great ideas for this parcel. You've obviously been thinking about and making plans for how you were going to invest in this piece of property. Looks like instead of waiting 30 years to make your big move, you should have only waited 29. Damn, I guess timing really IS everything!!!

Lorem Ipsum
Lorem Ipsum

Well said, MJ.

Ans dgoshilla is right. The site abuts the ugly, noisy Kensington Expressway, no? Then why not situate the surface parking on the least pleasant side of the parcel?

Also, about half of the rooms will have views that are dominated by surface parking, a cruel fate for those who are too sick or frail to go anywhere else.

dgoshilla
dgoshilla

I just don't understand why parking lots have to be against the streets. Can we all agree on that, regardless of the design of the buildings?

skarnath
skarnath

Well said. Developers have a development budget, a financing plan and an operating budget. There are many design decisions that can be made that don't add to the cost of the project, and the better the design decisions, the more likely the project is to achieve the occupancy levels it needs to succeed.

But the pressure for more appropriate design has to come from the city during the preliminary review/approval process. As someone who has spent the past several months exploring the suburban continuum of care campuses for aging parents, I can say that the issues are complex, painful, and deserving of lengthy, heated public debate.

This developer can do better without spending more money.

hamp
hamp

You said it. A prison for the elderly. This project is awful.

And a square plan with a courtyard in the middle is not a good setting for anyone, let alone the elderly.

I lived in a dorm with a central courtyard. Walking along the corridors, you never know where you are, you just keep walking around in circles.

sonyactivision
sonyactivision

LOL at all the ponds. Now Grandpa can feed the geese after nearly ramming the other parked cars in front of his concentration camp for old people.

sbrof
sbrof

right... because senior citizens, those most targeted are going to want to live on the East Side...

Good luck. You give them the option of here or the multitude out in the burbs with no pretenses... and watch where they go. Hell.. look at where they have been going to generations. Elderly may be a large part of the regions future but I don't see many of them wanting to live next to a highway, a hospital (loud sirens all the time), surrounded by vacant houses and their lifetime worth of negative perceptions....

MJ Worthington
MJ Worthington

Want to know why grandpa does not want to give up the car? Becasue we have created development that requires him to continue to risk driving to be able to do anything besides sit in his residence. If he lived here maybe he could walk outside to the little park surrounded by parking. We know how fun a park can be. Ecspecially when it's your only choice for the rest of your life. Unless you want to wait for family to take you somewhere for an hour or two or if you are luckily a van will take you to a mall.

No problem on the use of a portion of this land. But making it a prison for the old with some feel good green space is not the site plan to choose. Isolated uses remain isolated uses never building off each other. There is never a sum of the parts.

What is so wrong about housing our seniors in a place where there legs or wheelchairs can still take them somewhere (store, coffee shop, church, even a real park?) We as humans enjoy our freedom and ability to roam. It's why we like our cars. But single use spread out facilities like this strip that freedom away from our elderly (and our youth, and our poor, etc)

Yes it is better then abandoned towers. That is rediculuously obvious. But why offer the same stuff as the 'burbs when the old can already just choose to go out there on the same type of campus? Urban areas need to utlilize their advantages to suceed.

Crisa
Crisa

Aha, but then, there won't be a real need to pay for a privately-owned vehicle including purchase cost, maintenance and insurance--there will probably be vehicles for hire...

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And P.U.M.As are programmed not to crash!!!

NorPark
NorPark

Where the hell is 'PrarieWest, NY'? Is that near Pendleton?

Crisa
Crisa

The only section within the City of Buffalo(the upcoming City of Enligntenment)and the immediate suburbs with any actual room for serious expansion without living sardines-in-a-can style IS the east side. GO east side! GROW PrairieEast!

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Many who are now elderly who left the NE for, say, Florida, want to return--Come on up, folks!!!

Vin
Vin

The use proposed for the site is certainly a good one.

The layout and look of the proposed buildings certainly are not good. It's not outlandish to state that what would work in many suburban communities is not suited for the city of Buffalo. Think about it. Buffalo should not just accept anything that comes its way without question. If it does, it could someday just fade into the mess that surrounds it.

Buffalo is distinguished by its architectural and visual appeal and its distinctive urban form. Despite decades of bad decisions in regard to these assets, they are still worth saving. Without them, it is hard to see what future the city can aspire to.

In some ways, Buffalo succeeds as an urban place, and it has the potential to be even more successful in this regard. In a vast metropolitan area that is primarily suburban and scattered in form, there should be at least one place where people preferring an urban life can live and prosper.

rb09
rb09

Where is Buffalo Rising's story about Yahhoo! coming to Lockport?

biniszkiewicz
biniszkiewicz

seniors drive a lot of cars, too, these days. Personally, I'd love to see senior housing right in the thick of downtown, near the Theater District, some place where auto ownership wouldn't be so necessary to get anywhere interesting. The redo on North next to Elmwood is a great location, too. Kudos to those guys for redeveloping that. If I were at that stage in life, I'd like to be smack in the middle of thriving activity. By my tastes aren't everyone's.

Location next to ECMC is very attractive, I'm sure, to lots of seniors. Judging by the majority of options for seniors in suburbia, most of the tenants for these places don't seem to mind being relatively isolated from the hubbub of whatever else is around. Big sites like this allow for the luxury of auto ownership and many, many seniors still drive. Why not accommodate that? There is still a lot of greenery. I think in the flesh, this project will look better than many think. It will look suburban, I admit that. Contemporary suburban, not 1960s Sheridan/NFB suburban. Suburban with greenery, not just asphalt jungle. The fact that it will look suburban doesn't offend me. There's a big market for that look, and very little competitive product in the city itself.

Crisa
Crisa

...'might place it in high demand'...should place it in high demand...WILL place it in high demand...

Crisa
Crisa

First of all, try to imagine yourself living long enough to become a middle-class(suburban) senior no longer able to care for a private residence before judging this place.

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Then consider this place being located in a section of what will someday be the FORMER Buffalo's "east side"--renamed PrairieEast(with a PrairieWest, PrairieNorth, PrairieSouth and PrairieCentral)--with ALL "sides" being located in PrairiesWest, NY!!!

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Seriously, there will be many such seniors' places as Buffalo's population, which has no intention of leaving, ages. And that this one is adjacent to a major hospital might place it in high demand...

sbrof
sbrof

so we are moving from the towers in a park to a strip plaza in a parking lot...

At least the ideal of a "tower in park" had some merit. Completely lost opportunity. Waste of land, not environmental, poor urban site plan...

Yes they need parking for visitors... but I would be willing to bet that if you go there after construction you will find 50% of it empty... Most of the time people come by, grab grandma and go somewhere else. No one hangs out in these homes unless they are too old to physically leave.

At the very least they could have created a denser building and created a large park for the neighborhood. Some green space in lui of larger development. Also remember that nothing happened on this site because it was owned by the BMHA \ City for 30 years.

NorPark
NorPark

Who wants some cheese with their wine?

nick at nite
nick at nite

Come on everyone! Alot of you people on here crack me up. I think this is a great project at this location. Any development in that area of the east side is a great asset to the city of Buffalo.

As for the surface lots and the god forbid suburban feel - this is not being built even close to downtown or near the core of the city. Outsidethebox- you're so right. Buffalo is no longer a dense city of 600,000 people, we have to face the facts. Not every square inch of Buffalo needs to be as dense as possible and follow strict guildlines of city building. I would be outraged if this project was happening downtown or off of elmwood or on the waterfront, but next to the kensington off of filmore that's replacing those nasty buildings in a baron wasteland?

-I say perfect!!!!

Joshua
Joshua

Guys, it is a retirement home. Most retirement homes need parking for visitors - family and friends so you can visit your dear ol' grandma, grandpa, aunt or uncle. Finally these eye sores will be GONE! This will be a much improved use of the land, finally a cleaned up area at Glenny Dr.

Buffalonian4life
Buffalonian4life

Very suburban...very unappealing and a disgrace to what the potential could hold. Slowly Buffalo is indeed turning into a Suburb of itself.

ExWNYer
ExWNYer

Before they tear down, someone needs to tell George Romero about the current buildings for his next zombie movie.

Seriously, I am happy about the redevelopment, but this design really makes me wince. This is a design better suited for a suburban setting. It can be done better.

reflip
reflip

I wonder if City officials actually are pursuing a clear, but watered-down, policy of planned shrinkage - but just are not saying as much. That is, the plan for the east side of Buffalo is clearly a suburban model of low-density development. Even though we all repeat the mantra that, "There is no plan," maybe we're wrong. Maybe there is a plan, but it has not been made public. Maybe that plan is to turn the East Side into Cheektowaga as best as can be done. That seems like a politically savy way around having to admit "planned shrinkage" that allows you to still tout all the development that is happening even amidst population decline. Is it really just a coincidence that every new project east of Main is a low-density, suburban-style development?

Is the issue that developers around here are still 20 years behind the times and the City just doesn't demand better, or is the City actively courting such development as a way of tacitly accepting population decline without "giving up" on the east side?

manski
manski

Such a massive lost opportunity?!? Was that sarcasm? What brilliant options for this disaster area have been proposed (by someone who has the ability to finance and complete them) and shot down? Where this property is, you take whatever development you can get - 30 years is long enough to wait.

OutsidetheBox
OutsidetheBox

flyguy hit it right on. When are we going to stop kidding ourselves. Buffalo no longer has a population of 600,000 people in it's borders, plain and simple we can't sustain a dense pattern everywhere. In additon to this, modern stormwater regulations essentially require ponds on the site (decreasing density). Underground stormwater storage is an option but is always expensive and in this case may require blasting into the rock. Does it have surface lots and could it be denser, sure, but the current demand for land does not warrant it. I can just about guarantee that it would have been cheaper to build this project in the suburbs, but someone is willing to step forward and remove a massive eyesore in the city and replace it with something great. I like this project and quite simply I don't believe that Filmore Ave could support a dense project with street frontage in this area. Seriously, LOOK at the surround parcels.

hamp
hamp

Horrible. The City Planning Board should put a hold on this, until there is a redesign.

QueenCity
QueenCity

Alright let me put it his way....there is the double diamond building to the left, then there is a single larger single diamond in the center. Fine!

The winged building toward the right...just doesnt fit and doesnt belong....why not just take the double diamond building from the left and copy it to the right instead of the winged building.

That to me is the simplest solution...

no matter what...more pressure to burry the kensington lol

and it helps more than it hurts.

flyguy
flyguy

Buffalo employers and population need to get out of the insulated shell many of them seem to be in and seek large scale growth. Shrinking will increasingly diminish the intensity and "quality" of development people who want more and beter constantly seek on this site. A good design could ertaily cost more money, especially if we'r talking larger scale developmnts or addressing parking requirements with parking stuctures, etc. Additional building facade fenestration, more floors, etc. can certainly add to costs.

flyguy
flyguy

I dont think the urban type density that everyone seeks for nearly every project in the city is even possible considering market conditions there. The population continues to dwindle regionally and spread out georaphically and property values arent high enough, demand isnt high enough to push for smaller footprint taller buildings. Start pushing up the population, create demand and you will see more urban type developments and developers will have initiative to think twice about large surfae parking lots, perhaps push for structured type parking, etc. Lets not kid ourselves into believing this area of the city has aot of money to support huge investments in things like parking garages, etc. How muc are they expecting people in the area to pay to live there? Are they bringing in East Amherst type money here or east side tpe money? With that said in order to be profitable they maynot be able to offer all the amenities. From anothr angle what are the parking requirements in the city? Is it the developers problem solely that so much land area is surface parking or do city codes mandate alot of parking?

PaulBuffalo
PaulBuffalo

Molly, I understand your frustration. Is this better than derelict structures? Certainly, but that's an easy comparison. I don't think Buffalo should ever just take what it can get because it's that attitude that has led to such mediocrity for decades. This is such a large parcel of land and the effect of this poor design on Fillmore Avenue is unfair. This design wouldn't be tolerated on Delaware Avenue or Elmwood Avenue because those communities would demand better.

A good design wouldn't cost more money.

Molly
Molly

Well what would you put there then? In the last 30 years was there a better proposal that didn't happen? I think by this time we should take what we can get. Maybe that is a bad way of thinking about it but seriously, look at it now. Should it sit another 30 years until something better happens? People in Buffalo can complain about almost everything!

PaulBuffalo
PaulBuffalo

Molly, yes, I can complain because, as Steel just commented, this is a lost opportunity -- another lost opportunity in a long line of them. There's always an excuse why Buffalo can't build better and to put such large dull footprint of suburban sprawl within city limits is senseless.

STEEL
STEEL

Such a massive lost opportunity.

Molly
Molly

You really can't complain too much about this when you look at what the place is like now and how it has been vacant for 30 years! I did not know it was that long. It is a great improvement and I am happy to see these buildings go!

PaulBuffalo
PaulBuffalo

Since it's still going to take another year to remove the buildings, maybe BMHA can redesign the schlock meant to replace them.

QueenCity
QueenCity

But this is going to make a big difference to this section of Buffalo...lets get more development.

QueenCity
QueenCity

Should have gone for 4-6 floors...with the elderly in Buffalo and WNY this facility could easily be double the size.

and why 3 different suburban style buildings squeezed into the plot of land....they dont really take advantage of the shape of the lot...

LouisTully
LouisTully

wow, you guys are right. byron does love those ribbon cutting's

sin|ill
sin|ill

SWEET! more visible surface lots!

kidding... sort of.

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