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Plan for ‘faith-built community’ in Kenmore coming into focus

Plans for a “faith-built community” of apartments in Kenmore’s former St. Paul’s School have taken a step forward.

Developer Larry Bicz, under the name Double Eagle Kenmore LLC and in a joint venture with Vasile Construction Corp. of Rochester, has submitted an application to the village for a planned unit development, which allows village trustees to permit new uses for old buildings other than those specified in the zoning code.

Bicz is working out the terms of purchase for the 50,000-square-foot school with St. Paul’s church officials and the Diocese of Buffalo.

“I still answer to the diocese,” Bicz told the Village Board on Tuesday night. “The only contingency I had was that the (planned unit development) be approved. They’re waiting for that.”

The Village Board called for a public hearing on the application to be held at its next meeting, July 5. Village trustees were receptive to the plans presented Tuesday. If the necessary approvals are granted soon, the project could be complete as early as January or February, Bicz said.

The school on Victoria Boulevard was built in the 1920s and added onto in 1962 but closed in 2010. It has since only housed parish offices and hosted religious education classes and other occasional community group meetings.

Bicz told the Village Board the “faith-built community” he envisions will appeal to older St. Paul’s parishioners who want to downsize from their homes and cars, but stay in the village close their church.

His $5.5 million plan calls for 37 market-rate apartments of 28 one-bedroom, 8 two-bedrooms and one studio. Ten of the units will be made fully handicapped-accessible, he added. The rooms will be returned to their original heights of 12 feet, 8 inches, said Sean Pellow of Stieglitz & Snyder Architecture.

A community space in the gymnasium will host a development/management office and some services for residents such as yoga and exercise classes. Parking will be shared with the church with one spot for each apartment and 29 for the church, according to design plans.

“They’re all parishioners,” he said of prospective tenants who’ve expressed interest. “They’re all going to be there anyway. Secondly, most of them want to get rid of their cars.”

Bicz said regulations for receiving historic tax credits limits changes that can be made to the building’s exterior. Thermal panes will be inserted into the existing windows, he said.

“With the limited amount of work we’re allowed to do on the exterior, our landscaping is going to be key,” he said. “We’re going to make it look really nice.”