Shoreline Apartment Project Planned

Change is coming to the Shoreline Apartments.  The Buffalo Planning Board will be reviewing plans to construct 48 apartments in eight new buildings next week.  The complex at 270 Niagara Street sits in the shadow of City Hall.  It currently contains 472 units on 9.5 acres and was completed in 1972.

BuffaloItalianGuy has some details (from this post):

Any more information about the Norstar Development plan to tear down 5 of the Shoreline Apartments buildings on Niagara St at Carolina St?  They are supposed to be replacing them with 48 new affordable townhouse units.

Phase 1 will tear down the group of 5 buildings that are vacant/mostly vacant at the corner of Niagara St at Carolina St (250/260/270 Niagara St and 145/165 Seventh St). They will be replaced with 48 townhouse units.

The Planning Board meets on Wednesday, November 6 at 8:15 AM in Room 901, City Hall.  Other interesting projects on the agenda include:

About the author  ⁄ WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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Arthur Park

On Nov 6th Buffalo Planning Board accepted Negative Declaration and approved submitted plans. Does anyone know if there were any public objections at meeting?

Arthur Park

From Mid Century Modern Buffalo - Great news on Rudolph's Shoreline Apartments!! SHPO has NOT approved their demolition. As part of the required public review (Section 106), the SHPO is asking the developer to come up with alternate uses for the buildings before they will determine what can be done there. We will be helping to coordinate a public meeting with SHPO, the developer and Preservation Buffalo Niagara. Stay tuned.


Great adventures in WNY urban renewal. 


This is the complex designed by Paul Rudolph.  They are quite pleasing architecturally, and featured in many books on important Architecture.  It would be a shame to lose them.

That being said, they were very poorly designed by his firm, and had water infiltration problems from the day they were first opened.  PR, or the people in charge working for him, simply did not understand how to design and construct buildings for a northern/winter climate with heavy snow/rain.

His design of a simple slab on grade without any "curbs" to support the masonry block walls, plus the absence of any waterproofing material or mitigation efforts, is simply inexcusable.  Those "ribbed" concrete blocks were his design, and this was one of the first projects to incorporate them in a housing project.  They have worked quite well - as fence walls, but not so well as the entire exterior wall, without any additional elements to provide the proper insulation/waterproofing.

In Rudolph's desire to create a "modern vernacular" of the residential unit, he completely ignores centuries of successful building practice for untested, and ultimately disastrous construction deficiencies.

The use (or, rather, lack of use), of such things as drips, overhangs, and other common details to shed or conduct water harmlessly around the building is a big failure of modern/contemporary architecture.

These buildings were at the tail end of a push by Architects to cast off forms of the past in their over-eager effort to establish a new social utopia by the use of Architecture in the creation of a new urban experience - hoping by this effort to not only lesson, but eliminate the problems of urban environments.

Similar design/construction defects plagued his Architecture School building at Yale University (ironic, isn't it?).  Only recently, after multi-millions and great effort, has the Yale building been renovated successfully.

The "new" thinking (for over twenty years now), and a better use of any funds, to provide low-cost housing for the less fortunate, would be to subsidize rents in private developments, and locating the "poor" among the rest of us in housing mixed in throughout the whole community, instead of isolating or grouping everyone into new "ghettos" in one place in a community. This has been done successfully in Honolulu, and recently in Las Vegas.  Every new residential development is required to have something like 10 percent of the units to be "subsidized" units, indistinguishable from the other units in a complex, be they single family homes, townhouses, or towers.

The idea to create any new "poor people" enclaves should be discouraged, and a movement to demolish/renovate existing properties and fully integrate "the poor" into the entire community, should the operating principle in any program to provide housing.


The Shoreline apts. were built on the site of what once was a thriving Italian neighborhood. My parent's neighbors who grew up in that area have told me many stories of what a close knit community it was before they were forced out in the pursuit of "urban renewal". The houses were old and not fancy but they were mostly well kept as people in those days had pride in where they lived weather they owned or rented and many were very poor.

I also recall the day the Shoreline apts. opened and I attended an open house there. The apts. seemed quite comfortable and I did like the floor to ceiling windows ( don't understand why they're considered to be ill-lit ). Having a patio or balcony was somewhat new for apts. in those days and was an attractive feature. I'd drive past these buildings on my trips home after having had relocated to Chicago out of curiosity to see how they were holding up. I believe up until about the late '80's, the complex actually looked attractive with ivy climbing up the walls which softened the somewhat harsh look of the Brutalist architecture. The trees were of a height that allowed light to penetrate the windows rather than the dark overgrown appearance they cause now and there was no fencing which does give the place a prison-like look which I assume is a crime prevention measure.

I do think it's a waste to tear these buildings down in order to replace them with affordable Town Houses that will probably end up in the same state as the Shoreline apts. within a few years. They could be renovated into attractive market rate apts. or they can still be used for low-income housing if the BMHA's screening of tenants and adherence to subsidized housing rules by residents is strictly enforced. This has been done in other major cities such as Los Angeles and it does work.

Many public housing projects there are now once again safe and in good repair.

The Shoreline apts. are drug infested and dangerous which has caused those trying to get by honestly to live in constant fear.

The problem is not the structures, it's SOME of the people that are living there. Get them out, do some remedial work and make sure the rules are followed in the future. Build new townhouses? No way at taxpayer expense.


Here's a copy of the letter that Norstar Development sent to the residents:

October 14, 2013

Waterfront Apartments

270 Niagara Street

Buffalo, NY 14201

Dear Resident:

As a follow up to the resident meeting held on October 10, 2013, Norstar would like to provide you with some additional information regarding the proposed Phase 1 of the Waterfront Apartments redevelopment.

The proposed Phase 1 of the Waterfront Apartments redevelopment will consist of the demolition of five existing buildings at the corner of 7th and Carolina Streets: Buildings 145, 165, 250, 260, and 270. None of the residents will be displaced as a result of the redevelopment; the existing households will be relocated to other available units in the complex, or will be provided with a Housing Choice Voucher (pending household income eligibility) to move off site during construction, and will be able to return to a new unit if they qualify.

Please note this is not a notice to vacate the premises. Further information regarding your relocation rights and relocation assistance for those affected will be mailed in a separate letter.

Project Timeline

As stated at the resident meeting, Norstar has not yet been awarded funding for Phase 1 of the redevelopment. Norstar is in the process of applying for funding for the proposed Phase 1 of the redevelopment and will not know if the project will be awarded funding until the spring of 2014. If the project is awarded funding, construction will start in September 2014, and will be completed in the fall of 2015.

Breakdown of New Units

The proposed Phase 1of the Waterfront Apartments will consist of 48 new units. The proposed unit mix is as follows:

Number of Units        Bedroom(s)

10                                 One Bedroom

12                                 Two Bedrooms

26                                 Three Bedrooms


So my question is- "they're knocking down a number of these buildings which are vacant and replacing them with townhouses."  

1) why are they vacant?

2) will the new townhouses be low income or market rate?

3) if they will be used for low income why not use the existing buildings since the rest of the "development" works already as low income housing?


What a colossal waste of money.

There is nothing wrong with the existing apartments that a little bit of sprucing up couldn't fix. I happen to like the design of the existing, myself.

If Shoreline were sold tomorrow to an apartment operator without any income restrictions, they'd lease out in a minute. And there'd be few low income people there. The buyer would update kitchens and baths. He'd dress them up a bit. and he'd rent them out fast.

But we won't do that. Nope. Instead, we'll demolish these perfectly usable buildings and construct yet more new housing that will last, what? 40 years again? 

What is the foundation of the thinking that: because they are low income, they must be provided brand new housing? Who can afford that? Why not help them with rent instead and send them to doubles all over the city?


I did a simple google search of Paul Rudolph and I see the beauty in his work. I don't see that beauty in the buffalo apartments. They look like apartments that were cheap and economical at the time. Just because Rudolph is a famous architect doesn't mean all of his work is awesome. I dont care if this land is used for subsidized housing but lets make the buildings that are being built attractive and modern. This land looks like a huge waste of space (large parcels of grass, parking lots, small apartment buildings in a tall building area) Id love my tax money be spent on attractiveness.


I dont care who designed this complex. I often times see complaints about suburban sprawl architecture and it seems no mater what project always some sort of jab at Amherst and UB Amherst area development and yet because this project somehow has a recognizable architect its a travesty if these buildings are lost? These 1970's era necklace structures with parking fields and greenspace the way they are configured scream sprawl and the biggest shame of it is they are in such close proximity to the central city in the shadow of city hall.  If Main Place mall for whatever reason comes off the table as a viable site for the convention center given its existing footprint then I say plant a new convention center right here! For all the complaints about the Buffalo City Courts Bldg on Niagara Square at least that place doesnt sprawl on monotonously and repetitiously up the street as this project does. I would take Bflo City Court Bldg over these any day. Hope this entire project one day is replaced with urban density.

Black Rock Lifer

Affordable housing, low income housing, or subsidized housing are all a necessity  in a political system that has and continues to concentrate wealth in the hands of the most powerful and well connected.  Until we have real and meaningful political reform the reality is the poor will continue to be a growth industry here in Buffalo and across the nation. The working poor continue to lose ground and to become more dependant on government as business interests depend on taxpayers to subsidize the meager wages and benefits that have become the norm. The race to the bottom benefits only the rich while demeaning labor and burdening taxpayers and communities. At the same time that the rich continue to extract the lion's share of wealth they also enjoy the lowest tax rates in recent history. Economies are fed from the bottom up, not top down. We can't have economic growth or a civil society when a majority of the population have no stake in the community and no reason to believe they ever will.


I remember when the Shoreline was built - the existing buildings were just one small section of a large complex that was supposed to extend across the entire waterfront.


If they build more low income housing there its a shame. Its time to tear all that housing down and build a business park, or brick homes like the ones that are close by there.


SO, are they going to tear down Paul Rudoplh designed buildings?


Here's hoping for something at adheres to the Green Code under review and actually looks nice!


@Arthur Park 

thanks for the update. Keep us posted.



thanks for the details about the architecture. Very interesting.

Completely agree about dispersing low income tenants into mixed income projects, where the set aside for such tenants is a small enough percentage of the total that it doesn't discourage higher income residents.


@buffalorr Shoreline is owned by a group of investors, not by the BMHA.


Norstars statement that they have not yet been awarded "funding" seems pretty vague. Are they waiting for a private bank loan or have they applied for some type of government funding? The whole proposal really sounds curious to me. How will they make a profit by tearing down 5 buildings and replacing them with low-income town-homes? It sounds like they're doing some type of charity work but being a "for profit" corporation I'd tend to doubt that's the case. As with most things, I think this proposal from Norstar should be approached with the premise that "the devil is in the details.".


@buffaloroamer The only totally vacant building of the five to be demolished is the 6 story building at 260 Niagara St. It's been vacant for about 10 years. All of the copper piping has been ripped out of every apartment years ago. Recently, kids from the neighborhood have been entering the building via the numerous patio doors on the first floor that are frequently left wide open.



Call me crazy but the thought of living in a tastefully renovated Paul Rudolph building near downtown and within walking distance of the waterfront sounds amazing to me. 



You're essentially talking about history and how you're fleeting preferences as local layperson should trump that global historical narrative. In terms of that history, the "who" matters very much even if you don't care. 

Also, in terms of strategy, Buffalo should be concerned about the image it projects to the world. Is Buffalo a small yet surprisingly bright and connected city? 


Down vote. Can you ever get involved in a thread without injecting your over simplistic, one sided views on what is really ailing society? Providing counterpoints to your simplicity requires me to write a few hundred pages, so I'll settle for this meager post. Don't bother replying, as I don't have time for the back and forth against someone who will never consider objective solutions to complex problems.


The Rudolph designed apartments are attractive and historic. The fact that this article doesn't even mention Rudolph shows how little appreciation there is for his work in Buffalo. And then we're surprised when outsiders treat Buffalo like a second rate city. It's clearly behind the curve on this.



"If they build more low income housing there its a shame."

Right -- because people with low incomes should be out on the street . . .


BuffaloItalianGuy--Thanks for the info. I should have read the article a bit more slowly. Is this one of those companies that profits from section 8 housing? If Norstar owns this complex, then the city planning Board should deny their plans for building the town homes.. Why allow a company that can't manage what they have to offer more housing? Seems to me that Norstar is just another slum lord.


@Davvid @biniszkiewicz 

It's been a long time since I was in these apartments but I remember them as small and cramped with dismal natural light.  If so, it would take more than tasteful renovations to make the interiors enticing.  The sea of uncovered parking could use a re-think, too.

Bini is the expert but I would think that a developer would have to make a substantial investment and many design changes to interiors and the landscape to make these appealing to those renting at market rates.

Black Rock Lifer

Maybe you need to move beyond simplistic one word, one sentence, or one paragraph comments that rarely add to the discussion or provoke any kind of meaningful debate. My comment is consistent with the consensus of many economists, political observers, and historians and is certainly relevant to the housing issues here in Buffalo. 



You took the words right out of my mouth. After reading the opening sentence I knew exactly what the rest of the paragraph would be about.

Black Rock Lifer

@Davvid- Rudolph's design at shoreline mimicked the early Greek Revival style that was once fairly common in Buffalo. The low sloped roof and parapet wall design is very similar to some of the few surviving examples of this early period. One example still stands nearby on the east side of Niagara near Virginia and there are 2 examples here in Black Rock as well as a few others scattered at the edge of the near east side. As late as the 1970's there were many old homes of this style in the area of Elm/Oak/Michigan area and a few more on the west side.


@micahh64 @Irishkwh no, its because its cost Tax Dollars to build these homes for one. Secondly, it decreases the value of the property of the surrounding area. Lastly, it provides no tax revenue, which are city needs to keep growing.

Im not against low income housing, Im against it in areas that it shouldn't be! Downtown should be for businesses and people that work in the offices that surround the area! 

There is a whole lot of space on the East Side that needs to be redone.  


@buffalorr Norstar might be profiting from it, but I don't think the investor owners have turned a profit on it in years. The buildings to be demolished have the electric and gas included in the monthly rent. In the new units, the tenants will be responsible for paying for both.



I would need to see it first hand to know if units can be combined or if strategic changes can be made to bring in more natural light and upgrade finishes. It certainly wouldn't be easy or cheap.

What Buffalo doesn't really have yet though is an option for those who wish to live in an example of modern or contemporary design. Perhaps that market doesn't exist anymore in Buffalo. It certainly exist in other cities around the world.

Black Rock Lifer

@GotAnyChange- The tone of your two comments here comes off as smug, condescending, and arrogant. As if you are all knowing, totally objective, and your opinion is fact and somehow carries more weight. I started out on the conservative side as a young man but my life experience quickly opened my eyes to the limits and falsehoods of such thinking.  I worked  my way up from a tough start, experienced being poor at one time. As a resident and neighborhood activist in Black Rock and as a landlord for many years I have a long history and firsthand knowledge of the issue of poverty. My opinions do not come from the "intellectual elite" but from real life experince. Your claim of "knowing how I think" is nonsense and again reveals an arrogance and also a lack of wisdom.

I never claimed wealth inequity was the only problem but stand by my premise that it is the main driver. The state of our economy, our cities, rural areas, older suburbs, and educational system are all being undermined by the concentration of wealth. What is truly simplistic is the constant attacks on the poor, the entitlements, and the so called "culture problem".


@Black Rock Lifer  

What the intellectual elite say really has no bearing on my views. I may listen to them and consider what they say, but I will not completely surrender my critical thinking because some ivy leager, whose jobs often depend on toeing the intelligensia-du-jour's line, is posted front page. As an example, the minority of economists who sounded the alarm on the real estate bubble were swept to the side in favor of 'nothing to see here - everything's great!' economists who's best interest was to keep the party going. I also find prize winning economist Paul Krugman economically illiterate despite his credentials. It doesn't matter to me.

I'm guessing you assume I was brought up this way, but I wasn't. You are my parents and my brother, and most of my friends. I know how you think. You don't budge or truly seek the truth. I had HuffPo as my homepage for years, and have a sociology degree. I was there.

Years ago on this site I came out swinging, but I quickly realized this is not the forum for such partisan interjection. I do however feel the need to call you out a bit, since you are so incessant and people can be impressionable.


@Black Rock Lifer 

Some people don't like hearing themselves speak as much as the next guy.

Black Rock Lifer

@Bearded- Ziiiiiiing? I don't think so, you and four others agreeing with one challenge to my comment does not a majority make. You might want to take a remedial math course if you truly believe that somehow adds up to 95%.


@Black Rock Lifer 

You obviously are if you brought it up to your step son. Also, now you know how 95 percent of people on Buffalo Rising feel about you and Steele....ziiiiiing.

Black Rock Lifer

@Bearded- Dwelling on it? Don't kid yourself I could care less what you think. I brought it up only to expain why I gave up on having an intelligent or reasonable conversation with you.


@Black Rock Lifer 

You're still dwelling on that aren't you.

Black Rock Lifer

As for the "BeardedBuffalonian, I gave up having a reasonable discussion with you when you claimed calling Black Rock "Crack Rock" was "just a funny play on words" and not insulting. I ran this by the stepson and his friends (they are sophomores at Huch Tech), they didn't get it, maybe I should have tried it when they were in 7th or 8th grade or 20 years ago when I first heard this "clever" play on words.


@wtupperguy @micahh64 @BeardedBuffalonian @Irishkwh 

Maybe if some study economics and realize when areas start to thrive it helps the surrounding areas as well.

Why do you think there are shootings and stabbings in the Chippewa area. How many robberies have there been and how many go unreported?? These crimes must have been committed by the non-poor individuals, right?

our job isn't to teach other peoples kids to have values. Its their parents jobs. SO now, I should let the crack head mother live downtown just because she has 5 kids and they need to be taken care of. Doesn't 15% of my tax dollars help already?

Or are you saying there are no good teachers at the schools on the east side as it relates to helping poor kids?


@wtupperguy @micahh64 @BeardedBuffalonian @Irishkwh 

The poor and low income tenants need not be concentrated anywhere. Instead of building them tracts of expensive ghettos in waiting, disperse these tenants throughout the city wherever they want to rent. Help them afford reasonable (not exorbitant) rent by subsidizing the tenants, not the houses. Let the tenants go out and rent flats in No Buff, South Buff, West side, East side. Let the subsidy follow the tenant. Then there won't be concentrations of project housing which undermine the neighboring streets.


@micahh64 @BeardedBuffalonian @Irishkwh 

Yep, The Hunger Games in real life.

That is a terrible effing idea. You will rob kids of any kind of future. "oh you're from 1420?" I won't hire you, etc. These kids will never have a future. How good will these schools be, the grocery stores, playgrounds, etc.?

The east side is already a beacon of economic success right now right? Add a few thousand more poor people to the mix, I'm sure that will help.

I haven't commented in in a while, but holy crap, people are really detached from reality.


@BeardedBuffalonian @Irishkwh

"There is a whole lot of space on the East Side that needs to be redone."

"I agree, concentrate the poor with the rest of the poor and let the other parts of the city flourish."

Silly me, I keep forgetting . . . the preferred solution to housing for low income (minorities) -- other than putting them out on the street, that is -- is to HERD them in one area.

That way, they can justify not spending any money on housing or infrastructure improvement on one whole area -- with the added benefit, of course, of not having to worry about living next door to "THOSE people" . . .



@Irishkwh @micahh64 

I agree, concentrate the poor with the rest of the poor and let the other parts of the city flourish.