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Former Sacred Heart property to be converted into affordable housing with $14.5 million project

Crews are renovating the former Sacred Heart Church complex in Niagara Falls into affordable housing.
Mike Desmond
Crews are renovating the former Sacred Heart Church complex in Niagara Falls into affordable housing.

Construction workers are swarming over a landmark former Catholic Church complex in Niagara Falls, transforming the convent, school and rectory of the former Sacred Heart Church to affordable housing.

When the $14.5 million project is finished around a year from now, there will be 39 housing units, including some three-bedroom units, flanking True Bethel Baptist Church's Cataract City outpost in the city's Bridge neighborhood.

Craig Pridgen, senior pastor for the Niagara Falls Experience of True Bethel, said the decision to go ahead with renovating the Sacred Heart complex followed lots of meetings with the neighborhood, with residents also asking for those three-bedroom units to house families.

He said they decided to renovate old church buildings, rather than build anew, because of history.

“There's just so much that people have mentioned as it relates to that church and those three buildings,” he said. “It has become the norm to be in the middle of service and to have folks walk in and just start looking around and crying because for so long the building sat vacant.”

The church's first attempt at the renovation was rejected, until leaders decided to rebuild all three structures, rather than just one.

Mayor Robert Restaino said his city desperately needs more affordable housing .A lawyer, Restaino said he's been told the process of building affordable housing is incredibly difficult, even before construction.

“It’s going to be a welcome addition to the stable of affordable housing that we have in the community,” he said.

Pridgen said he hopes other churches in the Falls follow their lead and convert some of their properties into affordable housing.

With bad weather coming, construction workers are putting major effort into roof repairs in the complex.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.