Retired police officer and real estate professional Deborah Daniel hopes to help single veterans find affordable housing.

Could you please tell us a little about yourself? 

My name is Deborah Daniel and I live in Cheektowaga, right at the line of Buffalo University area. I have a business background in home ownership and rental properties since 2003. I attended Kensington High School. I’ve lived in properties on the East Side on Stockbridge and Carl, and I’ve owned properties in those locations and on Kensington.

Real estate is my full-time job now. I retired as a Buffalo police officer in 2014. I always owned property — I bought a house in 1987, I kept that as a rental, then bought one in 1992. Then I purchased other rental properties in 2003 and I kept all of the properties up until maybe two years ago. I started selling some and I still have four left.

How did you learn about the CBREDT program?

I learned about the program through a church member named Rita. Rita was telling me about Maggie. I then met with Maggie who came out and looked at my building. She said, “You’ll be great for this program we’re starting that’s coming up soon.” She gave me the information and when the application came, I filled it out. I did some research on the program and I thought it was a good fit for me.

Could you tell us about your building/project/goals? What are you hoping to accomplish?

I have a storefront on Kensington with a four-bedroom apartment in the upper. It has a three-bedroom apartment in the lower. My storefront is 960 square feet and it’s been separated into two storefronts.

It’s completely empty at this particular time because my goal is to have turned the apartments into studios — two studios on the top and two studios on the bottom, along with the storefront. I would like to redevelop the basement because it has walls and rooms, but it doesn’t have a floor and there’s no access point to it. I heard it was a speakeasy years ago, but I don’t know how true that is. 

How will your project benefit the neighborhood/East Side community?

One of the things I found in my research using the Census Bureau is that there are a lot of single people in the university district in the 14215 area. I wanted to focus on creating new housing for singles. That’s where I would come with the studio apartments or, if possible, one-bedroom apartments. There are really not very many up-to-date properties available for those in that category. I know there is student housing at the Collegiate Apartments off of Eggert, but other than that, most of the housing around the area of my building is aged. Not only would we be introducing single, one-bedroom, or studio apartments, but they would actually be new apartments. And as far as I know and see, there is no new development in that area for apartments or homes.

It would be great for that area, because not only do we have colleges, you have Villa Maria. That’s maybe like three miles away. You have the University of Buffalo and Canisius are not that far. Then you have the veterans and the veterans hospital there. There are a lot of single veterans searching for places to live that are conducive to them — not necessarily something that would be utilized by a family.

How will what you learned from this class help you accomplish your development goals?

Oh my gosh! There’s so much from this class. There are two major problems that I’ve always had. One is finances — trying to figure out how much things are going to cost. That was something that was well covered in our class — how to figure out the square footage; how to figure out the cost of the square foot; and how to figure out what a project could cost. Not only that, but what entails developing a project, and the steps you need to take. What do you need first?

First of all, you need to get an architect in there to see if it’s actually feasible. You need a project manager and there are particular steps that you need to take. I’ve owned properties since 2003, but my fault was I found that I was doing things over and over again. I would do electric in one apartment, and then the next thing I would have to redo part of that electric because I needed something else done. I was doing things more often than I should because I wasn’t doing them in the proper order. So this class saved me from having to do things and waste money in that type of process. And we get a mentor, too. That’s so awesome when you have someone giving you advice and helping you navigate your construction projects. There are various mentors and we’re all assigned a mentor. In fact, I’ll be meeting my mentor today, so I’m really excited about that.

Would you recommend this program to others who hope to develop commercial property on the East Side? If so, why, and what would you say to them?

I would definitely recommend this program to anyone that’s thinking about purchasing a commercial space or has a commercial space because you learn so much. And even if your space or your commercial business is already up and running, you learn how to make your place better, how it will just add value to whatever street that you’re living on and the community that you’re living in. You know, for me to be able to redevelop my building, my storefront, the apartment, and just the land around it, where that’s not really seen in that area, I’m thinking is going to be a boom not only for the residential people but even for those that have commercial storefronts on Kensington. There are a lot of commercial storefronts, but most of them are empty.

What are your immediate next steps?

My first step is to meet with my mentor. I’m really excited about that because he just happens to be a project manager for a well-known construction company. After that, I’ve already reached out to the architect and I’m waiting on him to send me a follow-up on my email. He’ll come out and take a look at the storefront so he can give me ideas on how we can make an accessible entrance and exit from the basement and what we can do with that lower portion of the building.

I just hope we bring value to the community so that others will see that we can do this. We can have a nice community that we can support — not just work there or live there, but we can work, play, and live there … we can stay right here on the East Side and enjoy the prosperity that I see coming in the future.

What is your vision for the East Side?

My vision for the East Side is that by upgrading my property people would be encouraged to invest in their property, whether it’s commercial or residential. How our property looks reflects on the community. I’m hoping with my building and all the new things coming from the building will inspire and encourage those around my property to do the same thing — to invest in their property.

Hopefully, it will also inspire those that are in business, those that have commercial properties, no matter where they are in the city, to know that it is possible to upgrade your property. It is possible to get the help that you need. It is possible to gain knowledge. I’ve been struggling since 2003 with these properties, but this is the first time that I feel like I am on the right track to do what I’ve dreamed of doing with my property. This property is going to enable me to pour into the other properties that I have.

I just hope we bring value to the community so that others will see that we can do this. We can have a nice community that we can support — not just work there or live there, but we can work, play, and live there. We don’t have to move over to North Buffalo or move over to West Side. We can stay right here on the East Side and enjoy the prosperity that I see coming in the future.

I’m hoping that we will all become a community together to continue to encourage each other in our projects and to continue to inspire one another. That’s what I’m hoping — all three cohorts join together and really, really have a group that will meet continuously so that we can continue to encourage each other right now. I’m going to make it happen. I’m going to have that meeting space in my lower part of the storefront and we’re going to have a place to meet. They won’t have to worry about paying for it. All they have to do is show up.