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Homes and Community Renewal

The Niagara City Lofts Moves Forward with $6.4 Million Award from New York State Homes and Community Renewal

Award will Transform the Vacant South Junior High School into Affordable Housing and Commercial Space, Save Taxpayers Millions

NIAGARA FALLS, NY - On May 12, 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the adaptive reuse of the former South Junior High School in Niagara Falls (561 Portage Road) into a 61-unit mixed-income affordable housing development is moving forward with a $6.4 million award from New York State Housing and Community Renewal.   The award will assist CB Emanuel Realty, LCC with converting the vacant historic building into affordable workforce housing and approximately 23,000 square feet of commercial space. The award is part of $141 million the Governor announced to build and preserve 2,160 affordable housing units across the state.

“Providing greater access to safe and affordable housing is a top priority of our administration and with this investment, we are helping more New Yorkers find a place to call home,” Governor Cuomo said. “This is not only an investment in affordable housing projects, but a critical step towards developing safer communities, stronger local economies and brighter futures for all New Yorkers.”

“The Niagara Lofts project is a great example of the important work we do, and the State is proud to support it,” said HCR Commissioner Darryl Towns. “The strong community backing the City of Niagara Falls built for this development played an important role in its approval. This is an investment in a better, more vibrant future for this community, creating 61 affordable apartments for hard working New Yorkers along with a large amount of commercial space in the shell of what was the long-vacant South Junior High School.”

The South Junior High School has been vacant for over a decade and was headed for a tax payer funded demolition, estimated at $1.2 million dollars. As a former school, the property was 100 percent exempt from city, county and school district taxes. The building has suffered significant water damage and decay over years of neglect, making it a financial liability, as well. The $24.1 million Niagara City Lofts development includes both value added through renovation and new property tax revenue. In September 2014, the Niagara Falls City Council approved a tax agreement with CB Emanuel Realty that will generate $377,132 on a graduated schedule. In addition, the developer will enter into a homeownership investment agreement with Neighborhood Housing Services of Niagara Falls, Inc., a housing renovation agency led by a neighborhood resident board. The project received a $5 million RestoreNY grant from Empire State Development in 2009. This recent award continues New York State’s commitment to the site and to Niagara Falls’ core neighborhood.

“The former South Junior building has sat in vacant decay for far too long. In strong partnership with the New York State Homes and Community Renewal, Empire State Development and Niagara Falls residents, CB Emanuel Reality’s Niagara City Lofts will convert an example of neglect to an example of thoughtful reuse,” said Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster.  “For the first time in its history, this building will contribute tax revenue, be privately owned and will provide a working and living space in the heart of our city.”   

The Niagara City Lofts development is a critical component of ongoing neighborhood and commercial district enhancements in the City of Niagara Falls. Located in close proximity to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and the Seneca Niagara Casino, two of the city’s top three employers, the project will provide newly renovated workforce housing. In addition, the site is located directly next to the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center and within two miles of the downtown tourism district.   

Niagara Falls voters approved the Niagara Falls City School District’s sale of the building to CB Emanuel Realty by over a five to one margin in a December 2013 referendum vote. The public has also been a part of the planning process, during community meetings with both the city and the developer in 2013 and 2014. In addition to an adaptive reuse, CB Emanuel is committed to a historic renovation of the once proud structure, and will retain public access to the children’s playground on the property.

New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) consists of all the State's major housing and community renewal agencies, including the Affordable Housing Corporation, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the Housing Finance Agency, State of New York Mortgage Agency, Housing Trust Fund Corporation and others. In 2014, HCR set an agency record by financing the creation or preservation of 9,363 affordable housing units, including affordable homeownership opportunities for more than one thousand families. 2015 marks the third year of Governor Cuomo’s $1 billion statewide House NY program, whose goal is to create or preserve 14,300 affordable units by 2018.