Tonawanda News

May 3, 2011

Ascension campus auctioned off to four buyers

By Neale Gulley
The Tonawanda News

— — Bids were placed over the weekend on all five buildings that were part of the former Ascension Church and North Tonawanda Catholic School campus.

The entire property — also including three parking lots — was shuttered last year as part of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese’ ongoing restructuring, the “Journey in Faith and Grace,” which started under Bishop Edward Kmiec in 2005.

The entire complex, including an event hall, church, school, rectory and convent, totals about 45,000 square feet and was tentatively sold as four separate properties.

Rae Proefrock, a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, attended the auction April 30 by Cash Realty and Auctions, LLC.

Minus the newer Msgr. Szabo Hall, Proefrock said all four other buildings are registered city landmarks, meaning their appearance can’t be altered greatly from the outside.

The convent, assessed at $79,000, was sold pending approval by the diocese to Albert Baker for $81,000, she said.

The Bakers, with Albert Baker for years serving as an altar boy at Ascension Church, plan to convert the 5,000 square foot structure into a family home for themselves and 10 children, she said.

“They’re a very religious family and they’re very happy to have this beautiful house,” Proefrock said.

Szabo hall, built in the 1960s, is the newest structure included and is assessed at $375,000. Proefrock said it was withheld from the auction after a private offer was made by Fairhavens Church in North Tonawanda in recent weeks, which reportedly plans to convert the building into a community outreach center, possibly including a food pantry.

The church and rectory, assessed at a combined $198,000, has known structural issues and, Proefrock said, went to a resident on Falconer Street for $10,000.

“I don’t know what they’re planning to do with it,” she said.

Of the low price, she said the diocese will have to weigh the offer, and must approve all sales of the properties.

Finally, the school building, until recently home to North Tonawanda Catholic School, sold to a local bidder and his partner who have hinted at plans to convert the building into apartments, Proefrock said.

Auctioneer Cash Cunningham said previously that advertisement of the properties has been targeted at other churches, charter schools and development companies, among others.

“I’m just sad to see the whole complex broken up and I just wish there were some kind of parish or church organization that would have picked it up but it just wasn’t to be,” she said.