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True Bethel plans apartments in former Sacred Heart School in Falls

A development company owned by True Bethel Baptist Church has a $5 million plan to convert a vacant Catholic school in Niagara Falls into apartments.

The former Sacred Heart Catholic Church and its elementary school became True Bethel's Niagara Falls campus about six years ago, according to Janice McKinnie, executive director of the church-owned True Community Development Corp.

Rev. Darius G. Pridgen, president of the Buffalo Common Council, is the pastor at True Bethel.

The plan for True Bethel Gardens, the project's name, calls for converting the two-story school at 1112 South Ave. in the Falls into 30 apartments. Twenty of the 30 units would have one bedroom, and the rest with two or three bedrooms.

"We're still working on confirming the financing," McKinnie said.

The developer anticipates some state funding, she said.

The apartment rents will not be subsidized by the state or federal governments, but the church hopes to keep the rents affordable.

"We are looking to make sure that people in the low- to moderate-income (brackets) are able to rent these apartments," McKinnie said. "They are not designated for any particular population."

True Bethel hopes to break ground next spring and finish the project by the end of 2018, she said.

The Niagara Falls Zoning Board of Appeals granted variances to the church Tuesday for parking on the property. The parking spaces now assigned to the church would be made available to the tenants of the apartments.

True Community Development operates two housing projects near its main church on East Ferry Street in Buffalo: 30 townhouses and 50 units of senior housing. It's also building single-family homes on East Ferry, McKinnie said. The corporation previously built three single-family homes on Woodlawn Avenue in Buffalo.

"Niagara Falls is similar to Buffalo. There's a lack of affordable, decent housing," McKinnie said.

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