Former Villa Maria Academy site to become apartment complex

Villa Maria Academy on February 27, 2019. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Villa Maria Academy on February 27, 2019. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA – An ambitious plan to rehabilitate the shuttered Villa Maria Academy at 600 Doat Street was presented to Cheektowaga elected officials Tuesday afternoon.

Sixty-six apartments will soon span the 80,000 square foot, six-level complex that once housed the all-girls Catholic high school.  The academy was shut down by the Felician Sisters due to declining enrollment and economic conditions in 2006.

“We hope that with the ministry and mission that continues there, we will continue there, although we may not be there in the next twenty years,” said Sister Francesca Buczkowski.

The Felician Sisters are using the services of Trautman Associates to design the new space – Angela’s House – following the company’s stewardship in the successful transformation of the sisters’ $15 million rehabilitation project at their motherhouse a decade ago.

“The sixty-six apartments will be set aside for some combination of families escaping domestic violence, female veterans, moderate and low-income households, and we anticipate that the project will start in the fall of this year if we’re awarded state funding by the Division of [Homes] and Community Renewal,” said Timothy Rider of Trautman Associates.

The project will take around a year and a half to complete once stated and rents are anticipated to be around $450 to $700 according to Mr. Rider.  Rental subsidies will be available under the state’s Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative.

“Many of these families will be escaping domestic violence or are low to moderate income households that have special needs.  They will have their rental payments paid for by New York State,” added Mr. Rider.

Catholic Charities of Buffalo will be on site to provide services to each resident.

“Our case managers will connect with each resident that lives in the housing and assess their needs,” said Dennis C. Walczyk, President, and Chief Executive Officer or Catholic Charities of Buffalo.  “Either through services delivered by Catholic Charities or through another organization we will link them all with the needed services and the case manager will ensure that they’ll stay link.”

Each floor will have a case manager office, a common community room, and laundry facilities.

“It’s full-bodied and meant to be an integrated community,” said Debbie Photiadis of Delta Development.  “On each floor, there is a community room, and in the community room corner there is a glassed-in office so that while children are playing and families interacting, there can be one-on-one conversations with case managers, with dietitians, with nutritionists.”

The mission of the Felician Sisters is also going to be an integral part of the facility.

“We’re there as spiritual support, to mentor, to just be available to people.  The college is also there to provide services,” added Sister Buczkowski.

The college will be able to offer GED courses for the residents and college students are available to tutor the resident’s kids.

A new parking lot will be developed behind the academy building, and a driveway will be built to provide access from Doat Street.

The former academy building is connected to the Felician Sisters motherhouse by way of the campus chapel.  The Gothic Revival complex was built in 1927.

Official site plans will be submitted to the Town of Cheektowaga Planning Board sometime in April.  The project’s architect is Trautman Associates, and it is being co-developed by CB Emmanuel Realty of Queens Village, New York, and Buffalo-based Delta Development.

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