Apartment Project Proceeding at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church

The church congregation of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church (LAPC) has granted final approval to convert its Memorial Community House into 16 market rate apartments.  LAPC’s goal is to establish steady income that will allow them to continue serving the congregation, the Elmwood Village, and the poor for another 150 years.  The project has been in the works for two years.

LAPC has existed as a church since the founding of the City of Buffalo. The church is steward to a nearly 60,000 square foot historic building located at the corner of Elmwood and Lafayette. In addition to religious services, the facility hosts community services such as the Concerned Ecumenical Ministry’s Loaves & Fishes Dining Room,, Right Place for K.I.D.S., Boy Scout Troop 2, UNYTS blood drives, the Winter Market, Lafayette Avenue Block Club, and Elmwood Village Association events such as the upcoming “Mass Appeal” fashion show, multiple recovery groups, and the two main fundraisers for the AIDS plus fund: the Serendipity Shoppe and Buffalo Gay Bingo.  LAPC aims to ensure it continues to provide services to these and other community partners in the still expansive facility.

Financing for the project will be through federal and state tax credits, a mortgage, and now with this congregational vote, the investment of LAPC’s Memorial Fund.

“In the past few decades, our church income has dwindled and we have annually taken from our memorial fund to keep our building dry and safe and to keep our doors open to all,” said Mark Kostrzewski, LAPC session member and Chair of the LAPC redevelopment committee. “But that wasn’t sustainable, and it wasn’t being a good steward of gifts from past generations.”

The transformation of Memorial Hall into apartments will reduce overall expenses and generate steady income to allow LAPC to continue serving the community.  The announcement comes in time to spotlight the visionary reuse of a historic church building by its congregation at the National Trust Conference. Typically, redevelopment of church buildings occurs after a congregation closes its doors and the building is sold.

“We hope to serve as a model for other churches that provide great ministries and services but are struggling to maintain a large old building with dwindling finances.” said Jennifer Nalbone, congregant and co-chair of the LAPC redevelopment committee.

LAPC’s plan includes partnering with some of the region’s leading experts in historic building preservation and revitalization including Peyton Barlow Co. Inc., Port City Preservation LLC, and the architecture and engineering firm of Carmina Wood Morris.

“This church has a long heritage of risk-takers and pioneers, who did hard things during tough times,” said LAPC’s Pastor, Rev. Drew Ludwig. “As a church, we wanted to not just survive, but thrive and provide ministries and services in the future. We hope our next generation looks back on this pivotal moment and calls us pioneers as well.”

With this vote, the church is ready to move forward and expects to complete the rehabilitation by late 2012.

About the author  ⁄ WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

17 comments
tommyJ
tommyJ

Does anyone know the deal with the Church that's sitting mothballed at the West Ferry Circle @ Richmond? I've driven by this for years now wondering its history and if anyone will turn that into apartments/condos... it's also (looks at least) a beautiful building

tommyJ
tommyJ

Does anyone know the deal with the Church that's sitting mothballed at the West Ferry Circle @ Richmond? I've driven by this for years now wondering its history and if anyone will turn that into apartments/condos... it's also (looks at least) a beautiful building

BlueN'Gold716
BlueN'Gold716

As to McCarley Gardens - the 15 million will go to constructing new low-income infill housing in the Fruitbelt (right across Michigan Avenue), that will be built with OTJ construction and green construction workers from the neighborhood. It will strenthen the Fruitbelt neighborhood, advance workforce development initiatives, while allowing the BNMC and UB to continue its growth. We just need to get the BNMC to give a damn about the Fruitbelt.

saltecks
saltecks

What part of they are getting 15million didn't you understand? Apparently the church thought it was a good deal.

NBuffguy
NBuffguy

Those who receive help from their government should not feel ashamed for doing so. That's what the government is there for, to help its citizens. As long as homeowners/taxpayers are contributing more than they're taking away, then I have no problem with assistance to home buyers and home owners. But at those who continually take more than they give back, some people are gonna keep on sneering.

The Kettle
The Kettle

Good point. I'll add that homeowners also enjoy taxpayer funded mortgages through the FHA, Freddie, and Fannie. There are also a variety of subsidies given to homeowners through the state ie: SONYMA and Star Program.

It's fun for some people to get on the ol' high horse and trash people for getting public handouts...

...as long as these folks pretend the handouts they receive don't exist.

grad94
grad94

sure, when you own you take on more responsibility. but that doesn't negate the fact that by buying a house, you're getting a major tax write-off not available to renters. it is still a $130 billion dollar housing subsidy and those who enjoy it should have the good manners not to sneer at those who receive lesser benefits.

http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/url.cfm?ID=412099

brownteeth
brownteeth

Precisely why I own my home and do not rent. I know those apartments, like Marine Drive, are people's homes. However, when you rent, be it subsidized or market rate, you give up the luxary of having say in what happens to the property. That's the reality of it.

If the owners want to sell, convert, or build a parking ramp next door and you do not agree, you do have the option of moving somewhere else within a relatively short period of time. The one thing we do not lack in Buffalo is housing no matter anyone's income bracket.

This conversion is a very smart one to me. It should be replicated where ever possible in the city.

NBuffguy
NBuffguy

The reduction in federal personal income tax that homeowners receive is always smaller than the amount of taxes they contribute to local and state governments simply because they own the property. In other words, they're a net gain to the tax base; they're not taking away from it. The same cannot be said who pay one third of their government check to live in apartments owned by a government agency. Sorry but it's just not the same thing, not by a long shot. Homeowners are then charged with the responsibility of stewardship for the property they own and pay taxes for Then they're held responsible by the government for making sure it meets the standards of codes imposed by the government that collects tax revenue from them. That's a far cry from a tenant in a government owned apartment complex, who calls the superintendent when something needs a repair. You might see homeownership as the same kind of subsidized housing as subsidized apartments, but I surely don't.

Rev. Drew
Rev. Drew

You are correct that the apartment projects will be on the tax rolls.

Rehab projects like this almost never make financial sense without some form of public financing. In this case, the tax credits not only encourage creative re-use and preservation (thus supporting a healthy urban environment and reducing sprawl), but also add real estate to tax rolls that was previously exempt. Additionally, it is an investment that allows a religious organization to transition from a place of need (maintaining such buildings is expensive. Frankly, its more than the church can afford) to a place of generosity (projected income will be spent for the good of our neighbors)

grad94
grad94

i appreciate your argument; a suburban-style subdivision probably isn't the best use of downtown land.

having said that, every homeowner in america lives in subsidized housing. the mortgage interest tax deduction is unique to this country and constitutes a huge subsidy. i am sure it well exceeds in dollar amount what little we allocate towards public housing.

and then there are the tax credits that are making downtown loft conversions possible. i am 1000% in favor of them.

what i am opposed to when anyone who benefits from tax credits or deductions stigmatizes those who benefit from cheaper programs.

rustbeltcity
rustbeltcity

Very well written. Bottom feeders sometime forget who pays the bills.

Allentwnguy
Allentwnguy

"Financing for the project will be through federal and state tax credits"? These are future taxes? I'm assuming that the apartment income will be taxable then and that the apartment part of the property moved onto the tax rolls. This is a good thing. All though giving tax credits to an entity that has never paid taxes does get me just a little.

But to save a historical building, which might have gotten moved to Georgia, I'm for it.

jim1234664
jim1234664

Let me preface my comment by saying that I definitely understand that these are peoples homes and there is a sense of community there. I can see why they would be resistant to leave.

That being said, This is federally subsidized housing... The only reason its there in the first place is because taxpayers supported it. If these same taxpayers have now decided they have a higher use for the land. In my opinion thats their perogative.

Its not like the people that live there wont be offered similarily subsidized housing elsewhere...

and as for the argument that they are being pushed out of downtown, No one is stopping them from renting a market rate apartment in the area. I dont feel pushed out of the 800 block of delaware ave because I cant afford to buy the knox mansion. some neighborhoods are out of reach for a lot of us...

The people in mccarley gardens that are able bodied should be happy that it seems buffalo is having a rennisance of sorts. Maybe the land they are giving up will support good paying jobs that will allow them to escape poverty. I thought subsidized housing was supposed to be a tempory safety net anyway?

KeepItSimple
KeepItSimple

I urge Lafayette Presbyterian and other parties involved to execute covenants to prevent what is happening with McCarley gardens. The successful McCarley Gardens project is also faith-based. Unfortunately, it is to become victim to our local medical-industrial complex. St. John Baptist Church inked a deal to sell the McCarley Gardens property to the UB Foundation for $15 Million. It is the latest acquisition in the UB 2020 plan. Per one resident (in a YNN article) “It was just a matter of time before they moved all of us out and pushed us further away from the downtown area,” said McCarley Gardens resident Laura Cooper. Her family has lived in the McCarley Gardens housing development seven years." Let's give some permanence to this one if it is successful. We need stable residential property in the City.

grad94
grad94

great model for keeping churches in business, so to speak. i wish the catholic diocese would permit this at their shrinking parishes.

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