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History of Amherst State Park News Archives



Buffalo News,   June 9, 2001  by Niki Cervantes

      The developer of the Pepsi Center in Amherst is the top contender to develop the historic motherhouse in Amherst's new state park.

       CRS Properties is proposing to turn the motherhouse into affordable housing for senior citizens, Amherst Supervisor Susan L. Grelick said Friday.

       The proposal was ranked No. 1 earlier this week by the project's review committee, which is made up of Town Board members and officials.

       Two other high-ranked proposals also are for senior citizen housing, but only the CRS proposal is aimed entirely at building affordable housing. The other two include units for higher-income seniors, Grelick said.

       "There really is a need for affordable senior housing in Amherst," she said. "This proposal (by CRS) provides a real community benefit."

       The fourth-highest-ranked project seeks to turn the motherhouse into town offices. Grelick said town officials are now seeking additional information on the four projects before making a final recommendation to the Town Board on July 2.

       CRS Properties developed the town's $18.5 million Pepsi Center, which has long been a source of contention because of the way it was funded, built and operated. It also came under fire from critics recently after huge utility losses forced the town to spend another $500,000 for improvements.

       But Grelick said the committee was more interested in the company's experience with building senior housing. It has constructed senior housing on Hopkins Road.

       "They have a track record," she said.

       CRS' proposal uses less green space than the other projects, she said. CRS also would purchase the St. Mary of the Angels motherhouse, just northwest of Williamsville, and pay taxes annually. She declined to give further details until negotiations are complete.

       But Councilman William Kindel, who is challenging Grelick in next November's town elections, was highly critical of the CRS proposal.

       Kindel, who also has been critical of CRS' work on the Pepsi Center, said CRS is offering $300,000 for the property, far short of the $2.5 million he said the town paid for the motherhouse.

       "I'm not built for giving away that kind of money," he said.

       He also contended that the town already has enough housing for senior citizens. He said the town has 1,929 apartment units for seniors, 339 of which are vacant.

       "That's 17 percent," he said. "Five percent is normal."

       For about two years, town officials have been looking for ways to reuse the motherhouse, which became vacant when the Sisters of St. Francis moved to a new residence on nearby Reist Street.

       Officials have promised to keep the 1927 motherhouse as intact as possible, both inside and outside, and Grelick said all of the developers being considered by the town seek to use up as little green space as possible.

       Seven proposals for the motherhouse were originally submitted last month. One of the more interesting proposals was to turn the motherhouse into a shrine to Padre Pio, an Italian monk who died in 1968. Grelick said the town had asked for more details on the proposal but never received a response.

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