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Affordable Housing Project Struggles To Get Aloft In Jamestown

The Gateway Center at 31 Water St. in Jamestown is pictured Wednesday. Formerly home to Chautauqua Hardware, the site has been eyed for more than 100 affordable housing units. However, the project has faced numerous delays. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

A “financing issue” continues to delay what has already been a years-long effort to bring affordable housing to the Gateway Center in Jamestown.

Speaking to city Planning Commission members Tuesday, Elliot Raimondo, city corporation counsel, provided a brief update on the “Gateway Lofts” project that was first promoted by Community Helping Hands in October 2018.

With the help of various tax credits, the Gateway Center at 31 Water St. would be renovated to create more than 100 new housing units to accommodate low- and middle-income residents as well as the homeless.

Raimondo indicated Tuesday that the developer, Southern Tier Environments for Living, is still hoping to move forward.

“It’s a financing issue,” he said. “When that’s going to come through, that’s up to the underwriters and bankers and not the attorneys or planners. I do believe they were still working on that.”

He added, “Unfortunately, during the pandemic, the financing from the prior bank that they were working with decided that they weren’t going to go in that direction of getting tax credits to finance.”

After lengthy talks, Southern Tier Environments for Living received site plan approval in 2020 from the Planning Commission. The developer also was approved for two variances by the city Zoning Board regarding proposed parking spaces and automotive use setbacks. Those variances have since been extended three times due to delays in moving the project forward.

In March 2023, Crystal Surdyk, city director of development, said a “final investor” was needed to get the project aloft.

“They’re hopeful,” she said last year. “They do have an interested investor that they’ve been talking with for a number of months. They can close in 30 days, it could be much longer than that, so it’s really ‘hurry up and wait,’ but they are very confident that they’ll be able to bring it over the finish line.”

Steven Ald with Southern Tier Environments for Living told the city Zoning Board last August that developers and Community Helping Hands were still committed to bringing affordable housing to Jamestown. In addition to the necessary financing, Ald said the different tax credits were the “sticking point” at the moment, WRFA radio reported.

“We have Brownfield tax credits, we have State Historic tax credits, we have federal historic tax credits, and, of course, the largest is the housing tax credits,” he told Zoning Board members. “Investors are used to seeing simpler deals.”

Southern Tier Environments for Living did not respond Wednesday to a message seeking comment on the project’s status.

Once home to Chautauqua Hardware, the Gateway Center has been viewed as being prime for redevelopment. Currently home to organizations such as Community Helping Hands and St. Susan Center, and virtually next door to UPMC Chautauqua, the location would provide quick access to a host of resources to low-income and other at-risk residents.

The addition of housing units also would ensure the sprawling property, with two floors not currently being utilized, would see new life.

In an October 2018 article, Community Helping Hands stated that the Gateway Lofts project would “provide high-quality housing, revitalize a neighborhood by cleaning a brownfield site and spur development, provide a centralized location for social services and it will ultimately save county taxpayers a fortune.

“Critically, representatives for the project champion the good which it will provide for the homeless, parents with children, struggling families and others.”

Early on, Southern Tier Environments for Living touted the support the project had received from officials both local and statewide. Many of the officials specifically mentioned at the time, though, are no longer in office, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state Sen. Catherine Young, Sheriff Joseph Gerace, and county Health and Human Services Director Christine Schuyler.

Last summer, Ald said the developer hoped to start construction by mid-2024. An estimate provided early on put the cost at about $31 million.

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