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As the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority prepares a redevelopment plan for the Commodore Perry Housing Projects, simultaneous efforts are under way to also restore commercial vitality to the surrounding low-income neighborhood.

A retail marketing study and commercial revitalization plan for what has been dubbed the Perry Choice Neighborhood was unveiled Thursday at an open house held in the Housing Authority Planning and Information Center, 400 South Park Ave.

The aim of the open house was to solicit public input from neighborhood residents.

“We’re doing this as an open house because you can’t really get reaction to this on a survey or based on people filling out forms. We prefer to engage people in conversation,” said Daniel J. Leonard of Peter J. Smith & Co., consultants on the project.

“The Housing Authority hired us as part of the Perry Choice Planning Initiative to investigate opportunities for commercial growth in this area, specifically for South Park Avenue and Perry Street,” he added.

The Housing Authority also is engaged in the Perry Transformation Plan, which involves a complete redevelopment of all the low-rise public housing at the Perry Projects.

“Over a 10-year period, the Housing Authority wants to methodically demolish the campus and reconstruct mixed-income housing, so it’s not just a public housing campus, but a mixed-income neighborhood.” Leonard said.

This spring, the authority will apply for $30 million in federal funds to reconstruct the first phase of new housing, Other municipal housing authorities around the country also are competing for those funds.

Meanwhile, Peter J. Smith and Co. is working on a plan to revive the surrounding neighborhood’s primary commercial corridors along South Park Avenue and Perry Street.

“If you’re going to have public housing redevelopment, it makes sense to explore what are the commercial opportunities to support that housing with some retail services and some jobs,” Leonard said.

“One of the things we’ve found off the bat from our market analysis is that you’re probably not going to see the traditional development along the thoroughfares of South Park and Perry Street immediately or anytime in the near future, because you don’t have the population and you don’t have the traffic anymore, because it has all been put on to the I-190 and Route 5,” he added.

Instead, the consultants began pursuing linkages with large assets surrounding the neighborhood, including Canalside, the Buffalo River, the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino and the Larkin District.

“The corner of Chicago [Street], which is part of the Housing Authoirty campus, is literally one block off the water. So this is a community that should benefit from being on a waterfront. So we really focused on corners and those linkages that go north-south down to the river,” Leonard said.

The Seneca Gaming Corp. is sponsoring the marketing and commercial revitalization study and has plans to invest more money in the contiguous community just south of the Perry Choice Neighborhood.

“They’re investing $130 million. It’s to their benefit to see the neighborhood grow around them,” Leonard said.

email: hmcneil@buffnews.com