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Paladino buys Squire House, old high school; Office building part of $1.25 million deal

Carl Paladino is buying the historic George L. Squire House and a nearby office building on Main Street to go with the former Bishop O'Hern High School on Ellicott Street, slated to open this fall as Health Sciences Charter School.

Property owner Cash Cunningham said he reached an agreement to sell the Squire House, the former school, a free-standing building that includes a gymnasium and the auctioneer's nearby office building at 1291 Main St. to Paladino's Ellicott Development Co.

The price tag: $1.25 million.

"The Squire Building mansion is tenant-ready now. It never made economic sense for us, but it was a building we needed to do something with and we did," Cunningham said.

He said he was glad after eight years to also find a tenant for the long-vacant school building.

"We're thrilled to be able to identify somebody who can use it, rehab it and bring it back to life," Cunningham said.

William A. Paladino, Carl Paladino's son and Ellicott Development Co.'s chief economic officer, declined to comment.

"Until we get everything analyzed, I really don't want to comment on the project," he said.

The E.B. Green-designed former school was also once home to St. Vincent's Orphanage and Convent, and Erie Community College's City Campus, which moved in 1982 to its current location in the Old Post Office building downtown.

The charter school is moving from the Town of Tonawanda to its new location. It is expected to open in August and eventually accommodate about 480 students. It will be about a half-mile north of the expanding Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Charter school officials have said the basement and first and second floors will be renovated in the first phase. Rehabbing the top two floors is expected to be completed within a year, with the adjacent gymnasium following, by August 2013.

The school renovation is a privately financed $5 million project.

Cunningham said it was his understanding that the Squire House will not be used by the charter school. The building was nearly demolished after the City of Buffalo issued an emergency demolition order in December 2000, and an excavator began tearing into the 1863 structure.

The demolition was halted days later after the Preservation Coalition of Erie County obtained a restraining order. After negotiations that, with the coalition's consent, allowed the demolition of dilapidated structures on the site, the three-story brick Italianate residence was salvaged.

Cunningham renovated it at a cost of more than $500,000, and the preservation organization gave him a special award for his efforts in July 2004.

Cunningham allowed Literacy Volunteers of Buffalo & Erie County to be housed in the 5,700-square-foot building for five years at below-market rate rent, until the not-for-profit moved last year to the second floor of the Central Library.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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