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NEGOTIATIONS TO SELL METHODIST CHURCH TO CITY CONTINUE

Attorneys for the city and a Texas religious corporation are trying to hammer out the city's purchase of Asbury Delaware United Methodist Church at Delaware and West Tupper Street.

Deputy Corporation Counsel David J. State characterized his talks as "positive," but neither he nor the attorney for the Texas church group would discuss what sources confirmed was a six-figure proposal.

"We're talking," State said of the negotiations.

At the urgings of both the Common Council and State Supreme Court Justice Jerome C. Gorski, attorneys for both sides have been trying to work out a deal that would approximately match the $175,000 a private corporation has offered the Fort Worth-based church for the Asbury Delaware church's adjoining parking lot.

A figure in the $175,000 range would cover a Key Bank's mortgage on the church site and related costs, sources said.

Though neither State nor Laurence D. Behr, attorney for the Texas church group, would discuss details of their private talks, sources confirmed the city is contemplating buying the church and its adjacent parking lot so the city's Community Development experts can devise cultural or other uses for the overall site.

City officials and preservationists regard the parking lot as essential to the church's reuse. It can be used for off-street parking or leased to nearby businesses, with the revenue seen as a maintenance fund for the restored church.

Preservation experts say the 1871 Medina limestone church is the best example of several buildings in Buffalo designed by architect John Selkirk and is a vital part of Delaware Avenue's street scenery.

Efforts by the Ujima Theater Company to buy the church to convert it into a privately operated cultural and performing arts center fell through last year. But sources said Ujima could be coaxed back into the situation should the city purchase the building.

State emphasized that any deal he and Behr work out has to be approved by the Common Council. Behr said Justice Gorski also has to approve any deal because his client, Kingdom Evangelical Missionary Church Inc. of Texas, is a religious corporation which is subject to New York State court supervision.

The sidewalks on both the Delaware and Tupper sides of the church still remain blocked to pedestrian traffic after being closed because of church-related safety problems.

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