Article via The Buffalo News
by Jonathan Epstein
A proposed senior housing project planned for Buffalo’s Symphony Circle neighborhood will be geared toward upscale independent living for seniors, rather than the originally planned assisted-living facility.
The $30 million project, which was previously approved last year by the city, has been taken over by Ellicott Development Co., which replaced an out-of-own firm that had previously partnered with the owner of the former Nazareth Home.
The planned Symphony Circle Active Living facility will include a four-story masonry building with 119 senior apartments.
Buffalo Planning Board approved the revised proposal Tuesday afternoon, after determining the changes were improvements and not significant enough to warrant a new public hearing.
“We’re looking at people a step before they go into that assisted living,” said Ellicott CEO William Paladino. “It’s a lot more independent living. They get a lot more freedom to come and go, for people who very much want the social aspect of living amongst other people.”
The irregular-shaped building at 279-291 North St. will feature a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments, with concierge services, food service and other amenities either onsite or available.
The new complex will have security, and Ellicott plans to contract with third-parties to offer home healthcare, transportation and related options for residents. It will not be a full medical facility with 24-hour care.
Paladino said the firm will set up a marketing office nearby within the next two months.
Rental rates are still being determined, Paladino said, but “we’d like to get a lot of pre-leasing on the property.”
If the project receives approval, officials want to start asbestos abatement of the former Nazareth Home within two to three weeks, followed by demolition of most of the structure shortly afterward, Paladino said. That process will take about three months. Construction is slated to begin by May 1.
The large building will sit on a long but sloped lot, so part of it will have only three stories and part will have parking underneath. The facade will also jut in and out, creating a jagged appearance that breaks up an otherwise single massive face.
Ellicott has made other changes to the design, including flipping its orientation to provide vehicle access to the basement, which will have 40 indoor parking spaces, in addition to 46 surface spaces. Some of the exterior materials have also been changed, adding more brick and a newer form of siding.
“We have a better plan than what was initially proposed,” Paladino said. “The look and feel of the building is more in tune with the nice residential feel that we want to have for the site. People who live in these facilities tend to live in them for a long time. We want them to feel at home and not institutional in any way.”
Ellicott also plans to retain a small masonry portion in back that was constructed as an addition, Paladino said. “It’s very easy to reuse it,” he said.
Officials are still working on a construction timetable and have not determined an opening date, but Paladino said it will take at least 12 months, taking the project to late spring or early summer of 2018.
The original project was conceived and unveiled more than a year ago by Bill Reich, a local real estate investor, whose half-brother, Buffalo native Andrew Plant, is one of two co-founders and partners of Westmont, a La Jolla, Calif.-based builder and operator of independent, assisted-living and memory-care communities. Reich and Plant saw a growing market in the city for aging-in-place facilities and sought to capitalize on it.
The previous plan by the 20-year-old senior company called for building a 123-unit assisted living and memory-care facility on the site of the former Nazareth Home, which was built in 1950 and closed in 2007.
But Westmont, whose focus of operations is on the West Coast, decided against proceeding for now. Reich still felt there was a need for independent living, however, so he bought the property anyway and teamed up instead with Paladino, who brought in Silvestri Architects. Reich will be the managing partner and operator of the facility.
“With Canterbury coming online and good feedback that we’re hearing, we thought this was a good time to enter this segment of the market,” Paladino said. “We think there’s more demand for this kind of facility in the city of Buffalo. If this goes well, we’ll look at other opportunities.”
More info about Symphony Circle Active Living