BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Marine Drive Apartments will be coming down and replaced with new, affordable housing.

Gillian Brown, Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority Executive Director, said the process began a year ago when they asked tenants for ways on how to improve living in the towers.

Brown explained that a team began engaging with Marine Drive residents in 2021, collecting data and renovation ideas. Instead of construction starting in 2022, they were faced with other obstacles that would have interfered with residents’ quality of life upgrades.

After meeting with developers and inspectors, Brown told News 4 that rehabbing the current towers isn’t worth the money.

“When Marine Drive was built in 1951, it was the only thing on the waterfront,” said Brown. “In the last 50 or so years, it’s become the worst thing on the waterfront. It does not fit.”

The development currently consists of seven towers with 616 units.

Brown said that the new development will consist of a mix of townhomes, three-story buildings, five-story buildings, and maybe one tower instead of multiple high-rise towers.

The new development is estimated to cost around $400 million, with the project likely not to see completion until 2029.

According to Brown, the new developments will preserve all 616 units of affordable housing.

In a Friday press release, Brown provided more info as to what to expect from the project.

“Often, when cities revitalize obsolete public housing, it is the residents who suffer. That will not happen here,” Brown said. “Mayor Byron Brown, the BMHA Board, and I remain committed to the promise of keeping all 616 affordable units on this site. Every current resident will have the opportunity to live in the revitalized Marine Drive Apartments.”

Other new benefits from the project may include:

– Integration of covered parking for residents,
– Construction of a variety of housing types, including accessible units,
– Options to build more than the current 616 units,
– Ability to increase the square footage of every type of apartment,
– Options to create space for retail, and health and human services, as well as other community spaces,
– Reconfiguration of Marine Drive to create new streets, green spaces.

“I’m committed to a transformation of Marine Drive that preserves affordable housing for existing and future residents while providing a high quality of life in a burgeoning neighborhood on our waterfront,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said. “I believe Buffalo’s waterfront can be a model for equitable development. After months of in-depth analysis, the development team is now presenting to the residents its vision for the best way to achieve these goals. I look forward to hearing the feedback from residents and working with them to create a shared vision for the transformation of Marine Drive.”

The first phase of new construction will take place on the development’s surface parking lot, with an anticipated start of early 2024. The first group of residents would then relocate to new units in late 2025, with the existing towers then being demolished to make way for the next construction phase.

With the new strategy, Marine Drive residents will be able to move directly from their current apartments to their new units. Under the original renovation plan, they would have needed to move twice, first to a vacant unit while their apartment was under construction, then back when the update was complete.

The redevelopment project will be overseen by Duvernay + Brooks LLC, The Habitat Company and Urban Design Associates, who were picked to lead the project in 2020. It is expected to create hundreds of construction jobs for the area.

“This project offers a fantastic employment opportunity for BMHA residents and other low-income residents to get well-paying construction jobs that will put them on the path to self-sufficiency,” Mayor Brown said. 

Emily Miller is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2022. See more of her work here.

Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.