Saving Grace Ministries plans to convert former YMCA on East Side into affordable housing - The Buffalo News
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Saving Grace Ministries plans to convert former YMCA on East Side into affordable housing

An East Side religious nonprofit that provides transitional housing to homeless paroled convicts has teamed with a local developer to convert a onetime YMCA building on East Ferry Street into 16 units of affordable housing and first-floor commercial space.

Saving Grace Ministries, known for its Grace House transitional residence program, is working with David Pawlik’s Creative Structures Services, or CSS Construction, on a $3 million conversion of the three-story building at 347 E. Ferry into residential space. Though its core mission is working with parolees, the focus of the apartments is to provide housing for people in the community whose income is at or below 60 percent and 80 percent of the area’s median income level, depending on the unit, Pawlik said.

The building, which includes a swimming pool, workout facility, gym and track from its days as a YMCA, is currently owned by social services agency Gateway-Longview Inc., but Saving Grace is in the process of purchasing it.

CSS and Saving Grace, which are also working with the Buffalo Sabres on the project, will seek site-plan approval next week from the Buffalo Planning Board.

“The building is absolutely beautiful, but it needs substantial renovation,” said Pawlik, whose firm was approached by Saving Grace. “It’s a pretty interesting project. They’re investing a substantial amount of money but they see the strength of the East Side corridor, and it’s also tying into other projects in and around that area.”

Right next door, CSS worked with another group, Second Chance Ministry of 381 E. Ferry, on a six-unit, three-bedroom townhouse project. And Saving Grace is engaged in several other housing and community service projects, especially around their headquarters at Bailey Avenue and Doat Street. The group also bought a derelict delicatessen next to its offices and renovated it with CSS. And it also worked previously with CSS to put up a 10-unit apartment complex on the other side of the deli more than a year ago.

“So they’ve made substantial investment in and around the area,” Pawlik said. “It’s just a great organization. They’re very pro-Buffalo, pro-East Side of Buffalo.”

The new venture is a change for Saving Grace. Led by the Rev. Terry King, Saving Grace started with a single five-bed residence in Buffalo in 2001 but now operates 15 “Grace House” facilities with 98 beds statewide, with additional operations in Rochester and Elmira, as well as in Tampa, Fla. The organization, which provides housing, food, clothing, medical care, counseling and other services to parolees, serves over 650 clients every year in Western New York, and another 300 in Rochester. Participants stay for six months to a year.

King, the chairman, CEO and executive director, knows the struggle of parolees firsthand. The 57-year-old’s self-described “high life and self-abuse” from a “lucrative lifestyle” when he was young abruptly ended after he struck and killed a 19-year-old man in the Town of Evans while driving drunk one night in the spring of 1994. He was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving, and was sentenced to prison. He was released on parole himself in 1999, and started Saving Grace after finding no coordinated services to help parolees like himself.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com

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