Project to con­vert school into apart­ments fi­nally ad­vanc­ing in Ken­more

The Buffalo News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Stephen T. Watson

The de­vel­oper be­hind a longde­layed con­ver­sion of the for­mer St. Paul’s School in Ken­more into apart­ments in­sists he’s ready to move for­ward with the project.

Larry Bicz three years ago re­ceived ini­tial ap­proval from the vil­lage to build a 37-unit apartment complex on Vic­to­ria Boule­vard in the school, which was built in 1924 and closed in 2010.

Bicz said in 2016 and again in 2017 that he was ready to be­gin con­struc­tion on the “faith-based” apart­ments, meant to ap­peal to parish­ioners of St. Paul’s Church, but he never did.

Fi­nanc­ing was a key hur­dle. Bicz had counted on rais­ing $1.6 mil­lion through the fed­eral and state his­toric preser­va­tion tax credit pro­gram to­ward the $5 mil­lion es­ti­mated con­struc­tion cost. But Bicz re­cently told The Buf­falo News that he had been able to raise only $1.1 mil­lion, leav­ing a gap that took con­sid­er­able time to fill.

The de­vel­oper also made some changes to the project that have in­creased the to­tal cost to about $5.8 mil­lion, Bicz said, but that won’t al­ter how he ap­proaches the de­vel­op­ment.

“Ev­ery­thing looks rosy like it did two years ago,” he said. “Peo­ple are ex­cited about the project.”

The Vil­lage Board re­cently voted to re­new the planned unit de­vel­op­ment des­ig­na­tion for the project af­ter its orig­i­nal ap­proval was set to ex­pire, Ken­more Mayor Pa­trick Mang said.

Mang said of­fi­cials are ea­ger to see the de­vel­oper be­gin the con­ver­sion of a sig­nif­i­cant vil­lage prop­erty.

“This is a project that’s been go­ing on and off for a while,” he said.

The project is a la­bor of love for Bicz, who grew up down the street from St. Paul’s and regularly at­tended events at the school and the church.

He ap­proached the church about a half-dozen years ago about the school and said he paid $500,000 cash for the 50,000-square-foot, mostly un­used struc­ture.

Bicz said he and his ar­chi­tect have worked closely with St. Paul’s on the project, in­clud­ing de­sign­ing a new parish cen­ter for the church that opened in early 2018.

Plans call for a mix of one- and twobed­room apart­ments in a range of sizes. The gym­na­sium and stage, which must re­main his­tor­i­cally in­tact, would be avail­able for com­mer­cial space and as a meet­ing space.

Bicz didn’t pro­vide an up­dated con­struc­tion time­line but said as­bestos abate­ment is the next step.

“The whole project’s ready to go,” he said.

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