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A West Side church that Alleyway Theatre purchased in 1998 with the hope of establishing a multi-use arts center for struggling arts groups is up for sale.
The 1898 Medina sandstone building, on Richmond Avenue at Ferry Circle, was purchased for $100,000 and had renovations totaling more than $1 million over the past 14 years.
But the original slate roof needs to be replaced, and other delayed repairs, along with the difficulty of raising funds during tough economic times, left no other choice but to part with the building, said Neal Radice, Alleyway’s founder and executive director.
“Its potential use is certainly going to matter to us, but at this point I think it’s most important that there be a new owner who has the resources to keep the building safe,” Radice said. “We hadn’t lost faith in the project, or the worthiness of it, and still hope an arts organization that would use it for similar purposes will be the ultimate owner.”
The Romanesque-style Richmond Avenue United Methodist Church was the only tenant before Alleyway bought it. The building, listed in 2009 on the National Register of Historic Places, has a 600-seat concert hall, 100-seat drama theater and grand pipe organ, as well as meeting rooms, rehearsal spaces, dressing rooms, exhibit gallery and office space.
Radice said the planned Upper West Arts Center was intended to create a home and identity for struggling cultural organizations. Alleyway, which exclusively debuts new works at its downtown theater, would have used the space to occasionally move an extended play that otherwise would have had to close.
Radice said the price will depend on how the building is to be used. If it isn’t tied to the arts, some of the sale price would have to go toward repaying foundations and state agencies that provided money solely for that purpose.
For that reason, the purchase price varies between $225,000 and $750,000, said Jay Newman, a real estate broker with Hastings Cohn, which is listing the building.
Radice said it would have cost another $1 million or more to stabilize and seal the building and make it functional as an arts center.
But he said he remains optimistic a role for the arts there can still be found.
“Buyers should know that we are welcoming innovative, unorthodox notions about the future of the building,” he said. “We’re certainly going to do our best to make sure that the building has a bright future.”

email: msommer@buffnews.com