The abrupt closing this spring of Holy Angels Academy is about to enter the next chapter of the story, with a weekend auction of the school’s real estate and equipment scheduled.
Cash Realty & Auctions will sell Holy Angels’ 60,000-square-foot former school building at 1902 Hertel Ave. in Buffalo at 10 a.m. Saturday, along with all furniture, fixtures and equipment.
Auctioneer Raymond “Cash” Cunningham said he did not know how many people would show up or bid. But given the school’s prominence, he said the auction of its 5.37-acre real estate and other assets is drawing “significant interest” from developers and others in the community, even without a lot of advance marketing and publicity.
“We’ve had a number of calls from developers based only on the press release. Our advertising really hadn’t hit,” he said. “The calls that we’ve had and the developers that have shown interest have done so mostly through word of mouth.”
Already, at least four developers have toured the property with Cash Realty, and others have at least expressed interest by contacting the real estate brokerage or downloading the information packet from the firm’s website.
“You can never tell the level of interest or the extent, but we know there’s been some,” Cunningham said, declining to specify any of the potential bidders. “If you can think of the name of a developer, they’ve probably called me. Nearly every significant developer in the area has indicated at least some passing interest, some awareness of the sale if nothing else.”
In particular, he noted that members of the Montante family, which owns Uniland Development Co., have been longtime supporters of the school, from which Carol Montante graduated. Uniland did much of the renovation work on the building in 2008. Observers have noted that the school property could be ideal for “transit-oriented” residential development, such as senior housing or market-rate apartments within a short distance of bus lines and Metro Rail. Nearby, Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. is finishing up its $17 million conversion of a former industrial building on Main Street into the Bethune Lofts, while Iskalo Development has now signed a contract to buy St. Margaret’s School in the other direction on Hertel Avenue for an apartment conversion.
Cunningham said he has not heard of any other schools interested in the auction but noted that they’d probably be working through a developer anyway rather than on their own.
“We’re looking for a successful sale,” Cunningham said. “It’s a spectacular piece of property. It’s in great shape and so well located.”
The three-story brick building in North Buffalo includes a new gymnasium, an auditorium that seats 110, a library, 20 classrooms, a cafeteria and offices. It was updated with significant renovations to the infrastructure in 2008 and also has a “newer” boiler, according to the marketing materials from the auction house.
“What is not brand new is remarkably well maintained,” Cunningham said. “The layout of the building is good. Mechanicals are all up to date. The floor plan is usable if someone wants to use it as a school. The gymnasium is spectacular.”
Separately but at the same auction, buyers also will have an opportunity to bid on the parochial school’s furniture and equipment, including a Steinway Baby Grand Piano and three upright pianos.
There are 500 student desks, 100 desk-and-chair combinations, 120 new cafeteria chairs, 110 theater chairs, more than 400 lockers, more than 150 tables, 47 file cabinets, 55 book shelves, 55 wooden chairs, 244 folding chairs, plus church pews, couches, cabinets and podiums.
Also up for sale are 68 computers, 92 monitors, 12 printers, six televisions, 34 Apple iPads and eight smart boards. And that doesn’t include the athletic, musical, art, science, chemistry, kitchen and other equipment, such as guitars, drum sets, keyboards, microscopes, three air conditioners, a snow blower, fire extinguishers, fax machines, shredders, commercial refrigerators and freezers, microwaves and dishwashers.
The sale will bring an end to a 152-year-old educational legacy, after last-ditch efforts to save the school in the spring failed to persuade its leaders to keep it open.
Officials of the Catholic girls school, located near Shoshone Park and a well-established part of the fabric of North Buffalo, announced in April that it would close at the end of the academic year, citing declining enrollment, the economy and finances. The news shocked the school’s 240 students, their parents, alumni and others in the community, who tried to come up with a plan to raise $2.5 million to pay off debt and save the school. But administrators decided to close anyway.
Cunningham’s firm has had to work unusually quickly to organize the real estate auction in just 12 days instead of six to eight weeks. The brokerage had already been hired to auction the furniture and equipment owned by the school itself, but the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart – the Pennsylvania-based religious order that founded the school and owns the property – were initially reluctant to part with it and only signed the contract last week.
“They finally came to their senses and agreed to let us do that,” he said. “It’s in their best interest to do the real estate sale in concurrence with the furniture, so that if somebody wants it as a private school, they’d have the opportunity to retain the equipment.”