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Buffalo News,   March 7, 2000  by Jay Rey

       Slap a "Sold" sign in front of Amherst's historic St. Mary of the Angels Motherhouse.

       Amherst has agreed to sell the sprawling four-story structure on Mill Street to a Syracuse developer, who will convert the building into moderate-priced senior citizen apartments while promising to maintain the historical integrity of the motherhouse.

       After weeks of negotiating, Amherst officials Monday finally reached a contract with Peregrine Development Co.

       Peregrine will:

       Pay Amherst $2.3 million for the building and an additional five acres. Amherst paid $2.5 million for the building.

       Spend an another $8 million to convert the building, which was built in the late 1920s, into a senior citizen assisted-living facility.

       The facility will have as many as 150 apartments -- with $1,400- to $1,800-a-month rents -- for senior citizens who need help with such daily tasks as bathing and dressing. Ten units will be set aside for low-income seniors.

       Give Amherst $30,000 a year as payments in lieu of taxes.

       Provide the Amherst Youth Board with 10,000 square feet of space at $1 a year for 10 years.

       Agree to designate the motherhouse an Amherst landmark.

       Take the building from Amherst within 10 months. Peregrine still is working on financing for the project. In the meantime, the company has agreed to pay up to $5,000 a month to maintain the building.

       William L. Kindel was the only Town Board member to vote against the deal.

       Kindel, who wanted to explore other options for the Mill Street building, said the project could have a negative impact on the neighborhood and environment. Furthermore, Kindel said, the project wasn't the low-income senior housing the town originally set out to provide.

       "Is it a perfect deal? No. But it is a very good one, and we should grab it," said Council Member Jane S. Woodward. "What we're doing is putting a very beautiful building to good use."

       Amherst and the state purchased the Mill Street property from the Sisters of St. Francis religious order -- which moved into its new home on Reist Street in November -- as part of a $5 million package to protect the motherhouse and preserve surrounding land as a major park.

       The plan called for the town to designate a use for the building -- preferably housing for senior citizens -- then sell or lease it to a developer for that purpose.

       Amherst, which took title to the building in December, received few offers for the motherhouse, and most officials figured Peregrine's offer was the town's best option.

       Peregrine hopes to take the keys to the building by July. Developers are shooting for a December 2001 opening.

       "We're targeting kind of blue-collar, middle-income seniors," Peregrine President Stephen S. Bowman said Monday.

       There is, however, still a 30-day period during which a petition with enough signatures could force a public vote on the issue, added Town Attorney Phillip A. Thielman.

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