Dante Project/Marine Drive Apartments
2013 Preservation Ready Survey of Buildings Downtown, Northland and Fougeron/Urban Survey Areas, Section 4, Pp. 33-34
(online June 2016)
In 1948, one of the first large State-assisted urban renewal projects was initiated on the waterfront in an area predominated by Italian-Americans. In the 1940s New York State adopted a slum clearance housing program. BMHA considered Dante Place as “...one of the worst substandard areas in the City of Buffalo, not only in terms of physical decline of its buildings but in its reputation for social unrest”. Dante Place was leveled for the city’s most ambitious public housing venture to date.
Completed in 1952, Dante Project (now Marine Drive Apartments) consists of seven 12-story apartment buildings and housing for over 2,000 residents.
Marine Drive Apartments was initially one of the most integrated of all of the city’s public housing with a higher percentage of African Americans, 36 percent in 1954, than in other predominately white projects. The higher number of African-American residents in Dante Place has been attributed to the dislocation of families in the Ellicott District for the construction of Ellicott and Talbert Malls in 1953-1954. Located along the east side of the CBD, the Ellicott and Talbert Malls project entailed demolition of approximately 30 city blocks in what was a racially-mixed area between Jefferson and Michigan Avenues, and William and Swan Street. Completed in 1959, the Ellicott (eight stories) and Talbert housing projects were high-rise apartments constructed exclusively for African- Americans. In the same year, New York State granted permission to BMHA to convert Dante project in the present middle-income privately-managed Marine Drive Complex. The conversion resulted in relocation of roughly 500 lower-income African-American residents.
Marine Drive Apartments is a seven-building complex overlooking Buffalo River with landscaped courtyards. It was designed by the noted Buffalo architectural firm Backus, Crane and Love. As noted, Backus previously designed Willert Park.
The apartment buildings have steel frame and masonry construction, cruciform plan, brick exterior, and distinctive Mid-Century Modern metal and glass entrances. The first floor of each apartment building exhibits a strong horizontality with its mixed types of window openings & sash, multi-story window bay with stringer course spandrels.
Identical in design, the individual buildings are called Admiral, Coastline, Driftwood, Ebbtide, Gulfstream, Flagstaff, and Bayshore buildings.