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BestSelf Behavioral Health buys former Red Cross building on Delaware

The developer who purchased the Clement Mansion property from the American Red Cross' Western New York chapter sold the agency's former Blood Services building to a family advocacy organization, which will use it to help children who have suffered from sexual and severe physical abuse.

The sale to BestSelf Behavioral Health completes a transformation of the historic Delaware Avenue complex into a nonprofit campus, with three organizations sharing what had previously belonged to one.

That caps a process developer John Yurtchuk began a year ago, when he took the community by surprise with a plan to purchase the 4-acre property from the Red Cross chapter and divide it up.

He donated the mansion and front lawn to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, which is now sharing it with the Red Cross. And he split off the rear portion of the property with its parking lot and a two-story complex of three structures, which he planned to redevelop.

Yurtchuk is former chairman of the local Red Cross and a board member of the BPO.

That rear portion – totaling about 2.85 acres at 768 Delaware – is what BestSelf acquired from Yurtchuk, according to brokerage firm CBRE Buffalo, which handled the transaction for the seller.

The nonprofit agency formed by the June 2017 merger of Child & Adolescent Treatment Services and Lake Shore Behavioral Health paid $3.15 million to buy the 53,500-square-foot complex behind the Clement Mansion, according to documents filed in the Erie County Clerk's Office.

BestSelf is the region's largest community-based behavioral health organization for children and adults, offering treatment and rehabilitation services to promote self-sufficiency, wellness and recovery. It focuses particularly on children and adults with mental health and substance-abuse disorders, and offers services such as school-based programs, vocational programs and mobile services for at-risk youth, those in recovery and the homeless.

The agency plans to use the building as the new home of its Child Advocacy Center, which works with police as well as medical, mental health and child protection professionals to help children. Plans call for renovating the building to allow the agency to expand and strengthen services. The agency's administrative offices will be located in the building.

“BestSelf is pleased to acquire this wonderful Delaware Avenue property,” said Dr. Howard Hitzel, BestSelf's president and chief executive officer.

For Yurtchuk, the sale brings clarity to a plan stemming from the Red Cross chapter's desire to sell the property at 786 Delaware it had owned since 1941, when Carolyn Tripp Clement donated it to the organization.

Designed by E.B. Green and built in 1912, the mansion just north of Bryant Street served as the family's home for 37 years, hosting social functions, musical performances and gatherings of leading city figures.

The Red Cross occupied it for decades, but it no longer needed all the space, and its national parent three years ago directed its chapters to sell their real estate. After two years, though, the local organization hadn't found a buyer.

Yurtchuk stepped up, with plans for the BPO to occupy part of the 17,000-square-foot mansion for offices but lease back the rest of the space to the Red Cross, which will stay as a tenant in the shared nonprofit building. The BPO now occupies the second floor and some mezzanine space, while the Red Cross shifted to the third floor. The two organizations are sharing three conference rooms on the first floor, while the Red Cross keeps two offices there.

Deal for Delaware Avenue mansion assures BPO of its new home

Between the two agencies, about 50 people will work in the mansion. Yurtchuk arranged for EFS – a Cheektowaga engineering firm that already manages the developer's Dent Tower in Amherst – to manage the property.

The developer completed his purchase of the property from the American Red Cross chapter in December 2017, but he has to wait a full year, for tax reasons, before he can formally donate the mansion and 1.15 acres to the BPO.

Yurtchuk separated the back portion, which contains the office building and an adjoining structure connected by an atrium, as well as a carriage house and the parking lot. Built in 1979, it's now empty. Yurtchuk considered converting it into medical or commercial office space, or making it a home for multiple nonprofits.

“The sale of the property behind the Clement Mansion to BestSelf is very positive for this area of the City of Buffalo,” Yurtchuk said. “The work they’ve done to help the people in our region throughout their history has been much needed and they will fit right in with other stalwarts in the community like the Red Cross and BPO who are just across the driveway.”

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