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The recently closed St. Margaret’s School in North Buffalo will be turned into 20 to 25 market-rate apartments, with work expected to begin in 2014.

Iskalo Development said it is completing negotiations with the Buffalo Diocese to acquire and develop the three-story school building at 1391 Hertel Ave., on the south side of the street between North Park and Saranac avenues. It also would add 42 parking spaces for tenants.

“It’s a great location, probably the epicenter of the Hertel Avenue strip that exists today,” said David Chiazza, Iskalo’s executive vice president. “We like the look of the school. It’s part of an established, well-maintained parish and has character that lent well to an apartment conversion.”

Chiazza said the parish has proceeded with obtaining input on the proposal from its committees and parishioners.

Kevin Keenan, the diocese spokesman, declined to comment, saying it was the diocese’s policy not to talk about property negotiations until a sale is closed.

Chiazza said the diocese prepared a packet of information on the school for developers. Iskalo, based in Williamsville, recently began to show interest in the Hertel strip, making the timing of the property’s availability fortuitous, he said.

The project targets only the elementary school and small convent behind it – not the church, its parking lot or rectory.

St. Margaret’s closed in June because of declining enrollment and the diocese decision to no longer subsidize the school’s operational costs. The school, which opened in 1917 and served prekindergarten through eighth grades, saw its enrollment drop from a peak of 647 in 1965 to 93 in 2012-13.

In recent years, the Hertel commercial strip has experienced considerable growth and vitality – considered a plus in tenant interest in a new apartment complex.

email: msommer@buffnews.com