The developers planning to convert part of the former Villa Maria Academy into a 67-unit senior housing project have secured a critical piece of financing to get the rehabilitation project moving in Cheektowaga.
M&T Bank Corp. has signed on to purchase the low-income housing tax credits generated by the project, yielding $15.2 million in proceeds for the renovation project by CB Emmanuel Realty and Delta Development.
That is enough to cover the anticipated costs, along with a $12.1 million construction loan from Evans Bank, $3.6 million in state financing from the Homeless Housing and Assistance Program, $3.4 million from the state Supportive Housing Opportunity Program and additional dollars from the town and the New York State Energy Research Development Agency.
"The senior population in Erie County has grown 26% in the past 10 years, and as rents rise in the area, it’s essential to create affordable homes that enable longtime residents to age in place,” said Scott Hoekman, president of Enterprise Housing Credit Investments, a division of Columbia, Md.-based Enterprise Community Partners, which arranged the tax credit deal. “The flexibility of the housing credit was the key to making Angela’s House a reality.”
CB Emmanuel and Delta are transforming a wing of the historic former Catholic school at 600 Doat St. into Angela's House, a six-story building with affordable apartments aimed at seniors aged 55 and older, as well as on-site parking.
The 55 one- and 12 two-bedroom apartments will range in size from 666 to 793 square feet, according to diagrams, and will rent for $596-$730 per month. All units are affordable for those earning less than 60% of the area median income, and seven units will be fully accessible for handicapped residents, with three accessible for those with hearing or vision impairments.
Individual units will feature grab bars, low-reach shelving and cabinets, lever-style door handles, lighting under cabinets and "zero-transition" showers, and each of the top five floors will include a laundry room.
The project includes 21 units of supportive housing for homeless seniors, funded by the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative, which will subsidize a full-time social worker and other on-site staffing. Catholic Charities will also provide referrals to those residents for services such as physical and behavioral health, money management education, independent living skills training and transportation.
The 80,000-square-foot project – which was designed by Trautman Associates, with work overseen by RP Oak Hill Building Co. – is expected to be completed by June 2022. Delta will manage the property.
The Gothic Revival-style building was constructed in 1927 for the Felician Sisters of St. Francis to house both the Villa Maria Motherhouse and Novitiate, as well as a public and private chapels, and a boarding and day school. The three-wing complex, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006, is located on the edge of the Villa Maria College campus.
The Sisters still occupy the convent and chapel – which take up two of the three wings – but closed Villa Maria Academy in 2006 because of declining enrollment and financial challenges, leaving half the building vacant and unused.
There is also a Living Independently for Elders (LIFE) center adjacent to the Motherhouse complex, which runs a federal Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) in Cheektowaga that provides medical and support services to enable elderly residents of the community to stay in their homes.