The developer of a controversial project that called for the construction of an 80-unit apartment building that would provide low-income and supportive housing in the city’s North End, has withdrawn its plan from consideration by the Niagara Falls Planning Board.
In a one sentence email, sent to Falls Planner James Bragg, E. Joseph Gibbons, a principal with Rochester-based design firm SWBR, wrote, "This email is to let you know that DePaul is withdrawing their application for this project from the planning board agenda. Joe."
Attempts to contact Gibbons were unsuccessful. Phone calls and emails to DePaul Properties were not returned.
"We're happy that the project isn't going through in (the North End)," said Falls City Council Member Ezra Scott, who had helped spearhead the community opposition to the project. "This is nothing against DePaul and Community Missions, which provide great services. We just oppose (supportive housing) in that area."
Council Member William Kennedy, who was also an outspoken critic of the project, praised residents who spoke out at both planning board and city council meetings in an effort to derail the project.
"(Pulling the proposal) was a reaction to the way the people of the city of Niagara Falls came out in opposition to the project," Kennedy said. "In the current state of the city, I wouldn’t approve this project on any street in the city.”
The planning board tabled consideration of the project at its Oct. 23 meeting, after North End residents showed up in force to protest it. It was scheduled to be considered again at a planning board meeting set for later today.
Scott had urged the board to postpone their meeting to allow the City Council to hold a pubic hearing and consider a proposed local law that would place a moratorium on supportive housing projects in the city’s North End. Residents there have argued that the area is already over-populated with such projects.
Scott said Tuesday night that despite DePaul's withdrawal of their project, he will push ahead with the proposed moratorium.
"One hundred percent," Scott said. "I have every intention to follow through on that."
Kennedy, a co-sponsor of the moratorium proposal along with Council Member Kenny Tompkins, said he wants to consult with other members on whether to move forward.
"I would think we'd want to have (the moratorium)," Kennedy said.
The council has previously voted, 4-1, to express its opposition to the proposal from DePaul and Community Missions of the Niagara Frontier. Their plan was to construct a two-story, 80-unit apartment building on Ninth Street and Garden Avenue.
The $15.5 million project would have replaced plans for 41 single-family homes, originally slated to be built on the 9-acre site by Norstar Buffalo USA as part of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority’s federally funded HOPE VI housing initiative.
The DePaul/Community Mission project would have created about 50 units in the building to be set aside for low-income residents and senior citizens. The remaining 30 units would have been reserved for clients of Community Missions and would have housed individuals who were receiving mental health services from the agency.
The development would also have included space for gardens and a farmers market.
Community Missions Executive Director Robyn Krueger previously expressed disappointment with the community’s reaction to the project.
“We’ve been proud to serve all the members of the Niagara Falls community,” Krueger said. “While the project does not directly belong to Community Missions, we are excited to collaborate with DePaul Properties in a way that brings our valued services and presence to the North End of Niagara Falls.