The developer behind a long-delayed conversion of the former St. Paul's School in Kenmore into apartments insists he's ready to move forward with the project.
Larry Bicz three years ago received initial approval from the village to build a 37-unit apartment complex on Victoria Boulevard in the school, which was built in 1924 and closed in 2010.
Bicz in 2016 and again in 2017 said he was ready to begin construction on the "faith-based" apartments, meant to appeal to parishioners of St. Paul's Church, but he never did.
Financing was a key hurdle. Bicz had counted on raising $1.6 million through the federal and state historic preservation tax credit program toward the $5 million estimated construction cost. But Bicz recently told The Buffalo News that he had been able to raise only $1.1 million, leaving a gap that took considerable time to fill.
The developer also made some changes to the project that have increased the total cost to about $5.8 million, Bicz said, but that won't alter how he approaches the development.
"Everything looks rosy like it did two years ago," he said. "People are excited about the project."
The Village Board recently voted to renew the planned unit development designation for the project after its original approval was set to expire, Kenmore Mayor Patrick Mang said.
Mang said officials are eager to see the developer begin the conversion of a significant village property.
"This is a project that's been going on and off for a while," he said.
The project is a labor of love for Bicz, who grew up down the street from St. Paul's and regularly attended events at the school and the church.
He approached the church about a half-dozen years ago about the school and said he paid $500,000 cash for the 50,000-square-foot, mostly unused structure.
Bicz said he and his architect have worked closely with St. Paul's on the project, including designing a new parish center for the church that opened in early 2018.
Plans call for a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments in a range of sizes. The gymnasium and stage, which must remain historically intact, would be available for commercial space and as a meeting space.
Bicz didn't provide an updated construction timeline but said asbestos abatement is the next step.
"The whole project's ready to go," he said.