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History of Amherst State Park News Archives


Buffalo News,   November 9, 1999  by Jay Rey

       Amherst officials, unhappy with the latest proposal for the historic St. Mary of the Angels Motherhouse on Mill Street, now hope to strike a deal with another developer interested in buying the 1928 building from the town.

       The Town Board agreed Monday to try to negotiate with Peregrine Cos. of Syracuse after expressing disappointment about the proposal submitted last week by Zaepfel Development Co. of Williamsville and First Amherst Development Group.

       In October, the board decided to consider the proposal by Zaepfel and First Amherst Development Group to convert the four-story building into apartments for senior citizens.

       But the proposal sought to spare the developers from paying for costly interior renovations by calling for the town to borrow at least $4.75 million to convert the first two floors into apartments and the top two floors into commercial or office space.

       Zaepfel and First Amherst would manage the facility. The revenue from the rents apparently would pay the town's annual debt on the project.

       "Frankly, I thought the proposal we got left a lot to be desired," said Thomas C. Ketchum, Amherst's building commissioner, who is on a committee reviewing ideas for the structure.

       The Zaepfel and First Amherst proposal did not provide a business plan, detailed costs or revenue projections, Ketchum said.

       "I think we're wasting our time with this particular proposal," Ketchum said.

       Supervisor Susan J. Grelick agreed.

       "We simply can't afford to borrow $5 million this year," the supervisor said. "The reality is we don't have the money to do this."

       Amherst still is in the process of buying the building from the Sisters of St. Francis religious order for $2.5 million.

       Amherst and the state agreed to purchase the Mill Street property as part of a $5 million package to protect the motherhouse and preserve the surrounding land as a 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.

       So a majority of the Town Board at Monday's afternoon work session agreed to negotiate with Peregrine, which offered to buy the building for $2.3 million and make annual payments in lieu of taxes totaling $50,000.

       Peregrine plans to convert the building into 130 to 140 apartments, with $1,400- to $1,800-a-month rents, for senior citizens who need help with tasks such as bathing and dressing. The firm also would lease to the town 10,000 square feet for a youth facility for $1 a year.

       Town and Peregrine officials plan to meet later this week.

       Originally, the Town Board was cool to Peregrine's offer, because it was not the low-income senior citizen housing that officials wanted to provide. But with only three developers interested in buying or leasing the building from the town, officials are beginning to think that Peregrine may be the best financial option for Amherst.

       The town, meanwhile, still is waiting to take title to the Mill Street property.

       The sisters began moving into their new home on Reist Street on Monday, Town Attorney Phillip A. Thielman said.

       The $5 million deal for the motherhouse and surrounding property still needs final approval from the state comptroller's office, Thielman said, and that consent could come any day.

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