Niagara Falls Housing Authority plans makeover of 59-year-old town homes

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Plans are afoot for a major renovation of Jordan Gardens, one of Niagara Falls’ oldest public housing projects.

But the Niagara Falls Housing Authority hopes to use that work to trigger a general makeover of the Highland Avenue area in the heart of one of the region’s poorest neighborhoods.

The authority disclosed Monday that it has received a $500,000 grant from the state Attorney General’s Office to pay for planning of a makeover at the 100-unit project off Highland Avenue.

Frank A. Soda, chairman of the authority board, said the authority’s internal estimates are that it might cost $15 million to bring Jordan Gardens, built in 1961, “up to 21st century public housing expectations.”

“We put it in the grant (application) that the renovation of Jordan Gardens has to be done within the entire context of revitalization of the whole Highland Avenue neighborhood,” Soda said.

Soda said that for a year, the Housing Authority has been working on plans for what it calls the Highland/Beech 2023 Initiative, named for the two avenues that border the neighborhood.

“We, over the last 12 months, have been making detailed assessments of the neighborhood and really doing our best to engage people slowly,” said Clifford M. Scott, Housing Authority executive director. “We’ve been able to accumulate some seed money related to blight elimination, and the Highland/Beech 2023 plan looks to develop a coherent and cohesive neighborhood plan in conjunction with a rehabilitation of Jordan Gardens.”

Details are to be worked out by MM Development Advisors, the consulting firm Albany assigned to the Housing Authority along with Niagara Falls’ $500,000 grant.

MM Development will be working on plans for the makeover of the Jordan Gardens town houses as well as the neighborhood plan, Soda said.

Scott said the authority wants to see the city tear down some of the dilapidated, abandoned buildings on the street, improve public safety and repair the pavement.

The third year of the proposed project would see the construction of affordable single-family homes on the newly vacant lots, Scott said.

Soda said the Housing Authority would seek funding for the work from New York State Homes and Community Renewal and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Jordan Gardens lies between the authority’s HOPE VI housing project, which began to open in 2010, and Norstar Development’s Cornerstone Townhomes on the opposite side of Highland Avenue.

Niagara Falls was one of 10 housing agencies that received $500,000 grants from the state’s Enterprise New York State Preservation Opportunity Program.

Published by The Buffalo News

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