A South End horror that has spawned generations of children of the Falls may soon experience its own rebirth.
Members of the city’s planning board have unanimously approved a site plan, submitted by a Miami-based developer, that calls for the renovation of the former St. Mary’s Hospital on Sixth Street into a housing development in mixed income. The plan has a development cost of $40 million and could spur a planned collateral investment of $40 million in the city’s South Quarter.
The project is led by Generation Development Group LLC, whose lead partner is Marvin Wilmoth. He is also Vice Mayor and Commissioner of Harbor Island in North Bay Village in Miami.
Generation Development is not a new player in Western New York. The company was a partner in the AP Lofts project in Buffalo’s historic Larknville neighborhood and is the lead developer of Buffalo’s Silo City project, a $65 million conversion of a historic complex of warehouses and milling facilities into an apartment, an office, a wellness and artistic destination.
“We have a soft spot in our hearts for fine community assets that just need capital,” Wilmoth said. “The historic adaptation and reuse of St. Mary’s Hospital will provide 90 apartments for service professionals.”
Wilmoth said consultations with Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center President and CEO Joseph Ruffolo and Falls Schools Superintendent Mark Laurrie identified “an urgent need for workforce housing “. Thus, the St. Mary’s project will target teachers and health care providers as potential occupants.
The property is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the federal government’s list of “districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation for their historic significance.” This means that a wide variety of targeted grants and tax credits will be available to fund the project.
Wilmoth said historic features of the old hospital will feature prominently in its renovation. He said the project’s architects are “the gold standard for preservation agreements.”
Plans currently call for the developer to submit further planning and zoning applications by this summer. Wilmoth said he hopes to have “swinging hammers” inside the old hospital by the last quarter of this year or the first quarter of 2023.
The developer says he understands the skepticism of some Falls residents, who have seen grand proposals for the old hospital go nowhere. But he said he was drawn to Mayor Robert Restaino and his team’s approach to boosting South End development.
“We were attracted to some of the efforts already underway,” Wilmoth said.
And he was struck by the community’s connection to the old hospital.
“Everyone we talk to has a different story about their connection to the hospital,” Wilmoth said. “It’s one of the most exciting things about preserving historic assets. Everyone has an emotional connection to the project.”
Restaino said he met the developers and was impressed with their track record.
“Generation is doing projects in Buffalo and they’ve made progress there,” the mayor said, “They recognize the structural needs (of the property). They have serious intent and a clear vision and they believe they can accomplish the plan they propose.”
And aware of the past development failures that have haunted St. Mary’s, the mayor said he was optimistic this project could succeed,
“What this group brings is a vision and a delivery story,” Restaino said. “They’re not afraid to think of innovative ways to solve problems.”