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Amherst's historic St. Mary of the Angels motherhouse reopened Friday, following a $12 million state-assisted renovation to convert the building into affordable senior citizen housing.

The landmark four-story building, now called St. Mary's Apartments, has been turned into 101 units with monthly rents ranging from $512 for a studio to $543 for a one-bedroom apartment, officials said.

State, county and town officials joined developers at a ceremony at the former motherhouse, adjoining Amherst State Park at 400 Mill St. After the ceremony, there were tours of the building and its new community room, formerly the convent's chapel.

The project benefited from $7 million in state tax credits, a $2.9 million insured loan and a $1 million state subsidy, according to a spokesman for the state Housing Finance Agency.

Built in 1927, the 132,000-square-foot, Gothic style structure was designed by Dietel and Wade, the architects of Buffalo City Hall, to serve as the North American headquarters of the Sisters of St. Francis. Once the home of 400 nuns, the motherhouse and its 80 acres were purchased three years ago for $5 million by the state and the Town of Amherst.

Later, it was added to the state and national registers of historic places.

According to developers John E. Cerio, Tom Granville and Gary Munson, many of the apartments have the original woodwork and other architectural features.

Apartments include a dishwasher, range/oven, refrigerator, garbage disposal and an emergency call system. People 55 and older are eligible to rent units.

Developers purchased the motherhouse and 4.8 acres of property from the town for $400,000 in 2002. Under the contract, they will pay $38,000 to $43,000 in lieu of taxes for 15 years, at which time the property would go on the town tax rolls and pay full taxes.


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