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Agency seeks final approval for West Seneca apartment complex

A Rochester-based social services agency plans to purchase a vacant former department store in West Seneca and start work on a 100-unit apartment complex for low-income workers and people with mental illness, provided the Town Board approves the $20 million plan at its meeting later this month.

The board’s decision represents the final hurdle for the Ebenezer Square project, which already has town Planning Board approval and has not faced significant local opposition.

DePaul Developmental Services will close on its acquisition at 2400-2412 Seneca St. within 10 days of the board meeting Aug. 11 if the outcome is positive, said Richard J. Schechter of Pyramid Brokerage Co. of Buffalo, who brokered the deal for DePaul.

Initial environmental questions have been addressed, so officials would then proceed with obtaining demolition and construction permits. Once work starts, it’s expected to take 18 months to complete, said Gillian J. Conde, DePaul Properties vice president.

The property, near the border with Buffalo, has a former department store and parking lot on 10 acres. It was built in the 1960s but is now in bad condition, including a rat infestation that DePaul must address before work can start.

Plans call for DePaul to demolish the building and build a 102,000-square-foot, three-story apartment complex, with income restrictions for tenants. The building would include 96 one-bedroom apartments and four two-bedroom units, all with kitchens and bathrooms.

All units would be for individuals earning less than $27,000 a year or families with sliding income caps topping out at $38,000 or less for families of four, based on a maximum of 60 percent of the area median income. Tenants would either work or attend school, Conde said.

Up to 75 of the tenants would be eligible for on-site case management help from DePaul staff, paid for by the state Office of Mental Health, which is financially supporting the project as a single-room occupancy building, even though DePaul is spending more on full-size apartments. Conde, however, stressed it would not be a mental health facility, and all tenants would sign leases and must be able to fulfill requirements.

“Everyone who lives there has to be very independent and be able to live in their own apartment,” she said. “You’re not going to know who is getting services.”

All tenants would face state background checks to rule out anyone with felony, sexual crime or a troubled history, and tenants would sign a lease addendum acknowledging the campus is drug-free. The project would create 60 full-time and part-time permanent jobs and 100 construction jobs.

DePaul, a nonprofit social services agency, provides a range of help for people with special needs, including assisted-living programs for seniors; residential, rehabilitation and treatment services for people with mental illness or a history of homelessness; and addiction prevention and support programs.

The agency recently finished conversion of the former School 60 into Riverside Apartments at 238 Ontario St. The complex opened in March and all 68 units were full by April 1.

The Town Board meets 7 p.m. Aug. 11 in Town Hall, 1250 Union Road.