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Three Buffalo firefighters complete second church purchase

Three South Buffalo firefighters who have turned their attention to redevelopment in the city have completed the purchase of an old church on McKinley Parkway, in preparation for converting it into a new apartment building.

Hook & Ladder Development paid $92,500 earlier this week to acquire the former South Park United Presbyterian Church and school building at 519 McKinley from the Presbytery of Western New York.

The group, consisting of John Otto, Peter Scarcello Jr. and Gino Gatti, had placed the winning bid for the building at a public auction last year, but the transaction was delayed by the need for state approval under the Religious Corporations Law.

The 17,486-square-foot brick church features stained-glass windows and ornate wood detailing, with classrooms, meeting rooms and offices in the rest of the building.

Plans call for spending upwards of $1 million to transform the building into 14 or 15 residential apartments, including a loft-style units in the sanctuary and more traditional market-rate apartments in the rectory, Otto said. He added that the mix will include both one- and two-bedroom units. "It'll be really spectacular," he said.

Otto said they hope to start discussions with city officials in the next few months, to begin the process of getting municipal approval. Once that's in place, he said, the project will take about 10 months.

This is the second church project the trio is pursuing in South Buffalo. Hook & Ladder also bought the former St. John’s Evangelist Church at 2315 Seneca for $175,000. In that case, they intend to spend $1.5 million to $2 million to convert it into four commercial units on the first floor and 12 loft-style residential apartments on the second floor.

The firefighters are using the same architect and project manager on both churches. "If all goes well, we can start moving on both projects at the same time," Otto said.

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