By Neale Gulley
The Tonawanda News
The Buffalo Catholic Diocese will not accept a $10,000 bid for the former Ascension Church and rectory made last weekend by a resident on Falconer Street.
Kevin Keenan, spokesman for the diocese, said a counter offer may still be made on the historic North Tonawanda church complex, valued at $198,000, even as three other prospective buyers have also placed bids on as many separate buildings included in the Ascension campus.
“We will not sell any property at a fire sale price,” Keenan said. “I think what is likely to happen is there will be a counter offer.”
Auctioneer Cash Cunningham also said a scant $35,000 for the campus’ school building, valued at $225,000, will also be rejected.
“They don’t want to be perceived as dumping any property, they’re working very hard to find appropriate reuse for the property,” he said.
Of bids also received for the convent and Msgr. Szabo Hall, Keenan did not indicate the bids would be rejected, but stressed none of the sales have yet closed.
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 complex, including the event hall, church, school, rectory and convent, as well as three parking lots, totals about 45,000 square feet and was tentatively sold as four separate properties last week.
The convent received a bid from the Baker family for $81,000, though the property was assessed at $79,000. That bid, Cunningham said, will likely be accepted.
According to Rae Proefrock, a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission who attended the auction April 30, Szabo Hall was pulled from the auction as a private offer was made prior.
Cunningham confirmed the offer, made by nearby Fairhavens Church to run a community outreach center there, was for $250,000. That building, the newest in the lot, was valued at $375,000. The bid, however, has been approved, he said.
On the former two properties, I think closer to $125,000 is a number that they’d entertain,” he said.
Keenan said selling the buildings to buyers or organizations that will better the community is as important as a reasonable offer.
“What we have done in the sales of more than 50 parish properties since 2005 is to find an organization that will benefit the local neighborhood. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a faith based group,” he said.