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Buffalo Christian Center set to be purchased by Paladino

Buffalo real estate developer Carl P. Paladino is poised to buy a choice downtown Buffalo property that has long served as a haven of programs for at-risk youth.

Buffalo Christian Center, at Pearl and West Tupper streets, is under contract to be sold to Ellicott Development Co., officials for the center announced Wednesday.

The sale, Buffalo Christian Center officials said, will allow the organization to more efficiently fulfill its mission.

The purchase price is not being disclosed at this time, but the deal is expected to close by the middle of next week, said Todd P. Danni of Coldwell Banker Chubb Real Estate, who handled the sale for Buffalo Christian Center.

Danni said the purchase price is higher than the current assessed value of $1.44 million. Danni called the property a “very creative space.”

William A. Paladino, CEO of Ellicott, said the developer is planning a mixed-use project for the 66,624-square-foot facility, which “has some nice large spaces and has some unique historic features.”

Plans are still being polished, he said, but, “at a minimum,” they would include offices and apartments.

The Buffalo Christian Center also features a roller rink, gymnasium, classrooms, closed swimming pool and a theater known as Forbes Theatre. Paladino said Ellicott plans to maintain the theater and “maybe the pool.”

He said the building’s large parking lot was “important to us” because the developer also owns “a few large buildings on Delaware with limited parking.”

The building also is located near Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The lot is also next to the lot used by Dinosaur BBQ, said Danni, who added, “I know the demand for parking went up considerably when they moved in.”

Alan Forbes, the former leader of Buffalo Christian Center, or BCC, bought the four-story building in 1958, and has used it for a variety of purposes, including a daily radio broadcast. More recently, the organization has focused on serving at-risk youth.

But the century-old building needs more than $5 million in renovations, and the organization determined its best option was to sell it and allow other organizations to take on three primary programs.

Proceeds from the sale will be used to create an entity under the umbrella of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to continue its mission. The entity will be called the YouthTime Foundation, officials said.

“Although this is a paradigm shift for many, BCC leadership wholeheartedly believes that its chosen path forward is the best way to accomplish its mission,” the organization said in a statement.

The center reached the decision following a 15-month review process, which included discussions with stakeholders in the community and hiring a consultant to create a business plan, accounting for the capital expenditures needed for building renovations.

The organization, which considered relocating, merging or dissolving, determined that raising $5 million was unlikely and, the “level of impact the organization would have on the community would not correlate with the dollar amount needed to modernize the building.”

The building’s location makes it valuable real estate – just south of the burgeoning Medical Campus, key to hundreds of millions of dollars of on- and off-campus investment by the University at Buffalo, Kaleida Health and Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Near the Buffalo Christian Center building, Uniland Development Co. bought several properties from Frey the Wheelman, while Ciminelli Real Estate Co. is seeking to buy the EPIC and Salvation Army buildings a few blocks away on Main Street.

Danni said four “primary parties” were interested in the facility, and three submitted offers, generating a bidding war.

“There was more interest than I anticipated,” he said.

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