When asked what a new 45-unit senior apartment complex on the three-acre grounds of St. Salome Church in Irondequoit means for the church, parishioner Dan Auieli puts the complex’s announcement in perspective.
“It means that this parish has a future in no uncertain terms,” Auieli said.
The parish has in the past struggled with maintenance, utility and insurance bills on the former convent and the former school, which has been used as a parish center and for church offices and storage.
Now, part of the parish’s land as well as the vacant convent, the former school and the rectory — in which Fathers Richard and Robert Belligotti still live — will be sold to Providence Housing Development Corp., a diocesan affiliate that will demolish the structures in order to build St. Salome Apartments, officials announced Aug. 31 during a press conference at the parish.
Crews will build a new, two-story apartment building with 39 units on the L-shaped footprint of the former school. On the grounds of the former convent, six two-bedroom townhomes will be built. The space where the rectory is located will be used for parking. LeCesse Construction will be the general contractor, and the architect is SWBR Architects.
Father Richard Belligotti, parochial vicar of St. Salome, recalled that about five years ago, after a child-care business on the parish campus did not take root, he spoke with Father Daniel Condon, diocesan chancellor, about possibilities for the empty buildings. Father Belligotti mentioned that there was a need in the area for a senior-citizen ministry.
“(Father Condon) said the best bet was just to call Providence Housing,” Father Belligotti said.
Providence applied five times to the state Department of Housing and Community Renewal before the project was approved for state and local affordable-housing funding, Father Belligotti said.
The project will cost an estimated $8.6 million. It will receive a $1.8 million loan from the state’s Housing Trust Fund; $450,000 from the Town of Irondequoit’s Community Development Block Grant Program; $450,000 from the Monroe County HOME program; and $602,363 from the federal low-income housing tax-credit program, which is intended to generate private equity of $5.6 million.
The Town of Irondequoit also has provided a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement and granted multiple zoning approvals and variances. According to town officials, there is a need for affordable senior housing within town boundaries. According to U.S. Census data, 22.5 percent of Irondequoit’s population is 65 and older, as compared to about 13 percent throughout Monroe County.
Though the apartment building will be just steps from the church doors, the project does not include any space shared by the housing complex and the church in order to reassure federal and state regulators that public money was not benefiting a religious organization, Father Belligotti said. There also will be no preference given to applicants who are parishioners or who are Catholic. More than 50 applications have already been received for the 45 spots, and Providence will distribute the spots through a lottery system.
Parishioner Betty Mattucci, who has lived in Irondequoit since 1982, said she hopes she is one of the lucky ones to be accepted. Living next to the church where she cleans, cooks and volunteers much of her free time would be very convenient, she said, noting that she also is drawn to apartment living.
“I want to live and relax and not worry about plowing or cutting the grass,” Mattucci said.
Not having to worry about the parish’s finances is another reason why some members hailed the announcement.
“We were afraid we might lose the parish,” said George Gleichauf of Irondequoit.
Father Belligotti said the project will ensure that the parish is solvent. The $5,800 a month that the parish spends to maintain, insure and pay the utilities for the vacant buildings can be put toward ministry, he said. In June, the parish clustered with Christ the King and St. Thomas the Apostle parishes in Irondequoit and is now able to bring a positive financial situation to the cluster, he said.
The school was built in 1921 and closed in 1989, according to St. Salome archivist Sandy Doran. She said the existing church, which was built in 1969, is the third in the parish’s life. Fires destroyed previous buildings in 1910 and 1967.
The parish was founded in 1908 as a mission church and was the first Catholic Church in Irondequoit. The cluster is making plans to mark St. Salome’s 100th anniversary with a Mass with Bishop Clark on June 8, 2008, Doran said.
The project is scheduled to be under way by the time the anniversary is celebrated, Providence officials said. Demolition and the beginning of construction is slated for the spring of 2008, the application lottery and leasing will begin in the winter of 2008, and the complex is scheduled to be completed in 2009.
Monica McCullough, Providence’s executive director, said the project succeeded because many people from Irondequoit pushed for it.
“I’ve never before had folks from a town calling me asking me, ‘How can I help?’” McCullough said.
The announcement marks just the beginning of Providence’s work: The organization also will develop, own and manage the complex, as well as screen applicants to make sure they meet state income and occupancy requirements, including that the head of household must be 55 or older.
Preliminary rents, which include hot water, are $450 for one-bedroom units, $550 for two-bedroom units and $608 for two-bedroom townhouse units. Eleven of the units will receive subsidized rental assistance, and seven units will be earmarked for frail elderly occupants.
Those interested in submitting an application for St. Salome Apartments should call 585-328-3228, ext. 1417, to be placed on the mailing list.