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Buffalo News,   March 11, 1999  by Jay Rey

       Three developers have expressed interest in converting the historic St. Mary of the Angels motherhouse on Mill Street in Amherst into some type of senior citizen housing.

       Amherst, in November, solicited developers from across the state for ideas on what to do with the four-story building, which the town is in the process of purchasing from the Sisters of St. Francis religious order.

       The developers -- one local and the others from Rochester and Syracyse -- have responded and indicated interest in either buying or leasing the motherhouse from the town.

       Amherst officials and engineers will review the replies, set some guidelines for redeveloping the notable building and ask the developers to submit more detailed plans, said Amherst Supervisor Susan J. Grelick.

       "They'll all be asked to submit formal proposals and we'll probably have each one of them come before the Town Board," Ms. Grelick said. "We'll determine who we want to negotiate with based on the proposals."

       Peregrine Cos. of Syracuse proposes purchasing the motherhouse to provide an "enriched housing facility for a frail senior population," according to information submitted to the town.

       Catholic Health Systems of Western New York would operate the facility. Housing and services would cost occupants between $1,400 and $1,800 per month.

       Zaepfel Development Co. of Williamsville would purchase the motherhouse for some kind of senior citizen housing. A retirement community or a continuing-care facility are two options, said William J. Coughlin III, a town senior engineer assistant familiar with the proposals.

       DePaul Community Facilities of Rochester would purchase or lease the building to provide "a mix of market rate and affordable apartments for area seniors, as well as space for supportive services."

       Complicating the issue is that the $5 million deal to buy the motherhouse and the surrounding 90 acres still hasn't been settled.

       Amherst, which is paying half the $5 million, has signed a contract with the Sister's of St. Francis and put down a $50,000 deposit on the motherhouse, which is situated on 11 acres, just north of the Village of Williamsville.

       But that contract is contingent on the $2.5 million promised last May by Gov. Pataki to help turn the rest of the property into Amherst State Park.

       A final agreement for the state funding should be approved in coming days, said Amherst's Town Attorney Phillip A. Thielman. Some details of the pact -- such as boundary lines and how much land the state and town each will take title to -- are being finalized, he said.

       The state had some concerns about paying $2.5 million for land valued by a private appraisal firm for less, but those questions have been resolved, Thielman said.

       "In theory and principle it's a done deal," Thielman said. "It's just putting the pieces together."

       As for proposed uses for the motherhouse, town officials favor affordable senior housing as the best use for the building.

       Still, there are many details of the redevelopment that need to be worked out, such as if the town wants to lease or sell the building.

       "We may just want to lease it so we have some control of what is done," Ms. Grelick said.

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