The Deaconess Heights residential plan to build 75 low-to-moderate income rental units where Deaconess Hospital once stood has a long road ahead of it.
“There are some people who live in that community and don’t want the project,” said concerned resident Richard Cummings during the first of many informational meetings designed to get feedback from the public.
About 50 interested neighbors, community leaders and residents attended a public forum Thursday evening in St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church on nearby Northampton Street.
The Community Action Organization of Erie County presented its preliminary plans for the Deaconess property at 1001 Humboldt Parkway. Architects and developers on the project also were on hand to answer questions.
The proposed borders for the site are Riley Street, Humboldt Parkway, Kingsley Street and Wohlers Avenue, and the proposal calls for 42 two-bedroom units, 18 three-bedroom apartments and 15 units that have four bedrooms. A community building, green space and a place for outdoor gatherings also are a part of the plans, said Jeffrey Lehrbach, a vice president at the McGuire Group, the developers for the project.
The site must remain rental property for 15 years before units can be made available for people to buy, said L. Nathan Hare, the CAO’s executive director.
Riley Street resident Dorene Forbes expressed concern about the amount of homes and the spacing between them.
“Those are too many units for that area,” she said.
Lehrbach offered a possible solution.
“We can make sure that the density is not in excess of standard city lines,” he said.
Still, many in the audience were not satisfied.
“The density” of the proposed project “is beyond the density of the community right now,” Cummings said. “The density is a conflict in terms of how” the 75 rental units “will change the community.”
The first phase of the project is expected to cost between $18 million and $23 million. CAO is currently looking for funding sources, Hare said.
Also during the public meeting, information on the CAO’s Home Improvement Resource Program was available. The program helps neighborhood residents with home energy audits and housing renovations.
The idea is to motivate current homeowners to upgrade their properties through grants and low-interest loans.
Informational workshops are held on the second Wednesday of each month from 6 to 8 p.m. at St. Martin’s Village, 564 Dodge St., Building No. 400.
Deaconess Hospital closed in 1986. The 268,000-square-foot building was renamed Deaconess Center and was retrofitted to become a 242-bed nursing home, a dental clinic and doctors’ offices. The nursing home closed December 2011.