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A former parish rectory that once housed 20 Jesuit priests will be dedicated as a low-income apartment building today and renamed St. Ann's Apartments.

The building at 371 Watson St. on the city's East Side has been rehabilitated by the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo for about $2 million. The money comes from government and religious agencies. It contains 19 units, mostly one-bedroom, and already is full, with a waiting list.

"I love it. It's just right for me," beamed Pearline Kirkland, as she showed her sparkling new apartment to a visitor.

A teacher's aide in the Buffalo Public Schools, Ms. Kirkland was one of the first tenants to move into the new complex.

Howard Grimes, who just moved from the West Side, said the new apartments appealed to him because he wanted to return to the East Side where most of his relatives live and because he is a member of St. Ann's parish.

"It's very comfortable," Grimes said of his new surroundings.

The apartment building is at the rear of St. Ann's Church, which sits on Broadway between Watson and Emslie streets.

The rehabilitation project, completed in late March, involved three years of planning followed by an 18-month building period.

Monsignor Henry J. Gugino, an associate director of Catholic Charities who shepherded the project from conception to completion, said he sees it as "an anchor" that should encourage additional neighborhood improvement.

"We are going to be serving the needs of people who could not ordinarily afford an apartment that is so up to date in a secure surrounding," he said.

Monsignor Gugino said the rehabilitation was financed through a complicated funding arrangement involving federal, state and city agencies, the diocese, the Jesuit community and the Allied Irish Bank of New York City.

Technical and legal assistance for the project was provided by the Legal Assistance Program of the University at Buffalo Law School.

He acknowledges that on a per unit basis, rehabilitation was expensive. But he points out that about $400,000 of the cost was associated with state preservation requirements because the rectory, built in 1890, is on the city's list of historically significant buildings.

Monsignor Gugino said that preservation considerations also prevented Delta Development of Western New York, a not-for-profit corporation established by Catholic Charities to develop housing in the diocese, from adding an enclosure to the front of the building for a second stair well. Instead, the front stairway had to be built inside thus eliminating space for three additional apartments.

The apartments are designed for couples or single people but a few units have a den that can double as second bedroom for single parents with a child.

Monthly rents range from $275 to $325 based on incomes of $8,200 to $16,000.

The former rectory, a four-story, red-brick Victorian style structure, was built around 1890 as a monastery for more than 20 Jesuit priests. The parish staff moved into a more practical prefabricated rectory at 501 Emslie St., across the street, in early 1989.

Participants in today's 2 p.m. ceremony include Bishop Edward D. Head of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese, UB President William Greiner and Donald Halprin, state housing commissioner.

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