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History of Amherst State Park News Archives


Buffalo News,   August 23, 1999  by Lisa Haarlander

      Amherst is one step closer to either selling or leasing the St. Mary of the Angels Motherhouse to a private developer.

       Three developers submitted plans last week that a committee of town department heads will review. The Town Board should have a recommendation by early October, Town Supervisor Susan J. Grelick said.

       The town is in the process of buying the building from the sisters and should take possession of the property between October and December, Ms. Grelick said.

       Two developers have put plans on the table to convert the 70-year-old brick landmark into senior apartments. The third developer, Zaepfel Development Company of Williamsville, has said the only way it can make the project work is for the town to keep the building and use the upper two floors for town offices. Zaepfel would use the lower two floors for senior housing and manage the facility.

       "It would be next to impossible to meet the spirit of the (town's request) and generate a profit," said Frank A. Chinnici, vice president for development with First Amherst Development Group, which is Zaepfel's partner.

       The town requested the housing to be low to moderately priced. Because of the fire hazard the wooden roof presents, the town also requested that only the first two floors be used for apartments. The upper two floors would meet building codes for offices.

       Despite that request from the town, both Peregrine Cos. and DePaul Community Facilities have submitted plans to use all four floors for housing. Both companies believe they can make changes to the roof to meet code or get variances.

       Peregrine's apartments would be for senior citizens who are not ill but need some help with tasks such as dressing and bathing, President Stephen S. Bowman aid.

       For the 130 to 140 apartments planned, the company will charge about $1,400 to $1,800 a month. A not-for-profit company would own the building and Catholic Health Systems would run it.

       Although it's open to negotiations, Peregrine of Syracuse has offered the town $2.1 million for the building. However, Amherst paid roughly $2.5 million for the motherhouse.

       "We're getting a park and a piece of property and land that will be preserved in perpetuity," Grelick said. "How do you put a value on that?"

       Although the price may not be as much as the town wanted, the company is offering several carrots to the town:

       10 apartments will be set aside for low-income Amherst residents who will get half off their rent.

       The company would lease the town 10,000 square feet for $1 a year for the next five years.

       Even though the facility would be owned by a not-for-profit organization and be exempt from property taxes, Peregrine has volunteered to pay the town $50,000 a year. DePaul of Rochester is being much more tight-lipped than Peregrine about its plans.

       It, too, would offer senior housing but for more healthier, more independent residents. The town described the rent as low to medium but the company would not give specific numbers at this time.

       DePaul also plans to lease back space to the town but the company would not say for how much. The company also would not say if it would give the town any money in lieu of taxes.

       "Until we have gotten an answer from the town on our (plans), I'm not willing to tell you more," said Patrick Tobin of DePaul.

       The sisters are leaving the motherhouse after 71 years to put more of their energy into ministry instead of caring for an aging building. The sisters have sold the building and 85 acres to the Town of Amherst and the state Parks Department. They will move into their newly constructed motherhouse at 201 Reist St. early this fall.

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