Adaptive Reuse of Buffalo Public School #75

From Blight to Bright: Adaptive Reuse Project Revitalizes Buffalo’s East Side

The Buffalo Public School 75 adaptive reuse project is an exemplary model of community revitalization resulting from the strategic investment of local, state, federal, and private resources in a targeted neighborhood on the City of Buffalo’s East Side. The project involved the historic adaptive reuse of former School 75 and the construction of new infill rental homes on vacant parcels surrounding the school. School 75 was originally built in 1925 as a public elementary school but closed in 1979 due to declining enrollment. By the early 2000s, the building was completely vacant and fell into serious disrepair for 20 years. For two decades, the building had a blighting impact on the neighborhood where it is located. The parcels, also having been vacant for the last 20 years, exacerbated the blighting influence of the vacant school.

Today, School 75 has been preserved and repurposed into 47 affordable and permanent supportive housing units, residential programming space, and office space for Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition, Inc., the area’s only not-for-profit organization specifically dedicated to serving those who have served our country. Additionally, 25 vacant parcels have been repurposed with well-designed rental homes that complement the reuse of School 75. The individual school units are spacious and modern, and the community room, courtyard, and yards of the townhomes provide welcoming and enjoyable spaces for the families who reside at School 75.

While the project was a resounding success, there were significant challenges that had to be overcome. The foremost challenge was the condition of the school. Having deteriorated for two decades, the interior was significantly damaged. Immense time and effort were spent by the development team to determine appropriate paths to correct years of disrepair. A project the size and scale of School 75 also requires determination and hard work to secure the necessary financing. Partnership with New York State, the City of Buffalo, the National Parks Service, and the New York State Historic Preservation Office was critical in securing resources to make the project possible.

The project’s outcomes and benefits far outweigh the challenges it faced. Immediately upon completion, the project provided 65 critical affordable opportunities in the community. Thirty-three of the opportunities are permanent supportive housing units for homeless veterans. As the owner, Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition provides onsite programming and services to help residents achieve and maintain productive, independent, and healthy lives. Additionally, the project had a transformative impact on the neighborhood’s built environment. A long-vacant neighborhood institution and parcels have been reused to address community needs and will have a lasting impact on the continued revitalization of the community.

Historic School Reborn: From Education to Veterans’ Haven

When first constructed in 1925, this school building responded to the rapidly increasing population of Buffalo. It was one of several courtyard-style schools constructed throughout the city that featured an abundance of natural light and ventilation while still fitting on a compact site. With its Classical Revival architectural style and its brick smokestack visible for miles, the school building served as an inspiration for personal growth in an expanding neighborhood near Buffalo’s thriving industries.

Today, the building has been repurposed and preserved to fulfill the same task for veterans of war, who are its primary residents. The immediate neighborhood now includes new townhome-style housing on once vacant lots, signaling this community’s reemergence.

aerial photo of the former Buffalo Public School 75 building
Courtyard at the former Buffalo Public School 75 building
aerial photo of the former Buffalo Public School 75 building

A Veteran’s Tribute: The Charlie Bush Building Dedication Ceremony

In November 2023, just in time for Veterans Day, the former school building was dedicated as The Charlie Bush Building in honor of SPC Charles E. Bush, Jr., who was killed in action on December 19, 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

SPC Bush was a foodservice specialist assigned to the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion in Tonawanda, New York. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Service Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal.