After months of negotiations with state historic preservation officials and neighbors, the Salvation Army of Greater Buffalo Regional Services is ready to redesign its 2.9-acre resort along the Main Street – including the demolition of four of its five buildings, one of which was deemed part of a historic district.
“We’re trying to better align the project in historic Allentown,” said Lindsey Haubenreich, attorney for Phillips Lytle LLP, representing the project. “That’s why it took several months to get here. The project involved revisions.”
The nonprofit Christian social service agency – which serves a low-income and homeless population – plans to build an emergency shelter and 164 affordable housing units, bringing its 67-year-old campus up to the needs of the community around. That means replacing its dated buildings that are no longer suitable, especially the old Travelodge motel that was converted into an emergency shelter decades ago.
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Anchored by a three-story emergency shelter perpendicular to Main and a seven-story apartment building that stretches along Main and then slopes towards the center of the site, the proposed Hope on Main project comprises 147 apartments in the large building and 80 beds in the shelter, as well as 17 two-story townhouses in five separate clusters along and facing North Pearl.
This represents 244 units in total, including studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and even three-bedroom apartments. Of these, 81 are permanent support units, with services provided to people with serious mental illness or addiction and to the chronically homeless. Plans also include a new 50-space parking lot as well as an interior courtyard and green spaces. And the agency plans to continue many of its current programs and services.
But the campus that stretches from 954 to 1000 Main St. also winds up to North Pearl Street on the other side and is adjacent to historic Allentown. The project was delayed by lengthy and complex talks with residents, conservators, and in particular the State Historic Preservation Office, which earlier determined that two of the Salvation Army buildings contributed to structures in the historic area.
The Salvation Army plans to retain one, its original main administration building and chapel at 960 Main. But the other, at 972 Main, should be demolished, along with 954, 984 and 1000 Main.
The original site plan application was submitted in January, along with an application for four Code Green waivers, but “a lot has happened since then,” Haubenreich said.
Officials hope the Zoning Board of Appeals will approve the request later this month, followed by the Planning Board, which reviewed the changes this week.
Although the Buffalo Preservation Board accepted the demolitions in June, it has yet to approve construction on the site, possibly by July 21.
The problem was that, although the campus was not originally part of the Historic District, it was incorporated into it during a 2011 expansion. At the time, all five buildings were considered “non-contributing”, but state history officials concluded otherwise in April 2022 for all but 1000 Main.
This led to further discussions with the state and the submission of more documents, prompting the state office to remove 954 and 984 from significance because one was built later and the The other – the old motel – had been changed too much.
This left 972 Main, so the state asked the Salvation Army to look at alternatives to demolition and explain why it cannot be kept intact. The nonprofit did so, showing that “none of the alternatives avoiding demolition…is feasible and prudent,” and the state finally agreed in early June. The Buffalo Preservation Board then supported all four demolitions.