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Plan to convert St. Paul's parish building into apartments OK'd

St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Buffalo won city approval for its plan to convert its former parish building into apartments in a bid to generate added revenue to cover the church's operations and outreach.

The cathedral's leadership wants to renovate the 121-year-old, four-story building at 128 Pearl St., creating seven market-rate apartments and a first-floor commercial office suite. Schneider Design and Schneider Development will oversee the new project, with R&P Oak Hill handling construction.

The $1.8 million plan was approved Monday evening by the Buffalo Planning Board. The cathedral still needs approvals from the Episcopal Diocese and the state attorney general, but officials hope to start work in the spring and finish by next winter.

Designed by E.B. Green & Associates, the historic former St. Paul's Parish House dates back to 1896, and had formerly housed the parish offices, the dean's office, educational space and a choir practice area, among other uses. But it's been mostly vacant since the church moved those functions in 2014 to a new and more efficient administrative facility at 4 Cathedral Place.

Officials "considered selling it," but "once you sell it, you don't get it back," said Very Rev. Will H. Mebane Jr., the cathedral's interim dean. Instead, they decided to redevelop it, and use the proceeds to help fund its $1 million operating budget and community initiatives.

"The goal is to use the proceeds from the leasing of these apartments to support the mission of the cathedral," Mebane told the Planning Board.

The 10,600-square-foot masonry and frame building sits across the street from the 166-year-old stone cathedral, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Only minimal exterior work will be needed.

"It's a great building," said Planning Board Vice Chair Cynthia Schwartz.

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