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.