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Selling McCarley Gardens

Bigwigs unveil big plans for the Fruit Belt

For two and a half hours on Saturday afternoon, a crowd of about 200 people comprising neighborhood residents, members of the religious community, UB and Kaleida Health representatives, architects, and a city court judge unveiled plans that have been developing over the past five years to transform the East Side of Buffalo. Bishop Robert Sanders opened Saturday’s Fruit Belt & Eastside Redevelopment Project Forum and Informational Meeting with a prayer, asking God to help facilitate the plan that will possibly require over $100 million dollars in public funds to become a reality. “Anything has to be built on truth,” he told the gathering.

UB Law School grad and City Court Judge James A. W. McCleod, who also serves as vice chair of Great Lakes Health, and sits on the board of Kaleida Health, described how former Kaleida CEO William D. McGuire and Reverend Michael Chapman of St. John Baptist Church came together years ago to discuss some possibilities for the real estate currently occupied by McCarley Gardens. McCarley consists of 150 units of moderate-income, HUD-subsidized housing situated on 15 acres of land adjacent to the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus. As Chapman began to “run with the ball,” UB became involved. One facet of the ambitious plan calls for building a new UB campus in the proposed medical corridor to house the departments of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health, Dentistry, and Pharmacy, which are currently located further up Main Street at the UB South Campus.

Reverend Chapman described the proposed projects as “unprecedented in the country,” and said they would need help from the federal government, as well as passage of the UB2020 legislation at the state level. For help there he credited Representative Louise Slaughter and Senator Charles Schumer, as well as lobbyists Victor Martucci and former Buffalo mayor Anthony Masiello, of Government Action Professionals.

Speaking to concerned residents of McCarley Gardens, Reverend Richard Stenhouse, representing the Jeremiah Partnership, and Reverend Chapman, echoed the sentiment that in order for there to be progress, somebody has to sacrifice. Many in the audience were unmoved. This past summer, the Jeremiah Partnership gummed up the plans of a Cleveland developer that had wanted to build on the East Side. At the time, Stenhouse said he was against scattered site development. However, the current McCarley Gardens relocation plan developed by Foit-Albert Associates would scatter residents over 22 blocks. Moreover, it would only be creating living space that already exists in the form of the current residences at McCarley, which are only 30 years old.

Representatives from SLR Contracting and Service Company, Inc.—a local minority-owned construction company whose president is Sundra Ryce, who also serves on the board of Great Lakes Health—and architectural firm Hannah Murano exhibited drawings and plans for the new developments. These would include a subterranean youth recreational facility including a pool, gymnasium, and running track. High Street would be rebuilt with mixed-use shops and living spaces, with fountains punctuating the new gateway to the East Side. “It will look better than Elmwood and Hertel,” attendees were told.

Still, many McCarley residents were visibly upset. Reverend Chapman reminded them, “We’re the landlords of McCarley. We’ve made it so good, you don’t want to move. But we have a viable opportunity to provide you with alternative housing.”

The plan could unfold over the next 10 years.

buck quigley

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