When Ellicott Development decided to convert a former church near the Medical Campus into a commercial building, it set out to buy some nearby houses to obtain additional land for the project. Most of the St. Paul Mall homeowners agreed to sell, getting between $45,000 and $100,000 each for what often were run-down homes.
But Bonita and Kittrell Whitlock, the owners of 47 St. Paul Mall, who ran a day care center in their two-story house, didn’t sell. Ellicott Development made an “extremely low offer,” Kittrell Whitlock said the time.
That has since changed.
Ellicott recently purchased 47 St. Paul – assessed at $35,000 – and a small, vacant lot at 49 St. Paul – assessed for $2,000 – for $280,000.
That’s $225,000 more than what Bonita Whitlock paid for the 2,288-square-foot two-family house in 1995, records show. The vacant lot was purchased two years later for $1.
The $280,000 price tag reflects increasing property values in the Medical Campus area, but also that getting one of the last pieces for a project often comes at a premium, said James R. Militello, with J.R. Militello Realty of Buffalo.
“It’s typical in an assembly, when you buy multiple parcels, that there is a hold out, or one waits until he gets a premium price,” Militello said.
The Whitlocks weren’t interested in selling when first approached a few years ago. But over time, talks resumed, said William Paladino, Ellicott Development CEO.
The Whitlocks were not available to comment.
Paladino said the $280,000 sale price also reflects the fact that the house was being used as a business. The Whitlocks, he noted, no longer lived on St. Paul Mall, but ran a day-care center out of the house.
“When you buy a building with an existing business, you aren’t only buying the property, but have to pay for part of the business,” he said.
Purchasing the Whitlock property not only provides two more parcels for the Ellicott Development project, Paladino added, it also frees up two other city-owned lots that were being used as a playground for the day care center at 47 St. Paul.
Ellicott Development plans to purchase those additional parcels, Paladino said.
When the cost of the four lots is averaged, the per lot cost is more in line with what was paid for the other St. Paul properties, he said.
Ellicott Development bought the former Our Lady of Lourdes school and rectory at 1091 Main St. for $370,000 in 2009. The developer purchased the church building at 1115 Main St., which was previously sold at auction for $25,000, for $40,000 in 2010.
Part of the former school and rectory is being demolished as part of Ellicott’s plan to convert the church into a mixed-use building, possibly for retail, residential or commercial. Paladino has not disclosed further details. The St. Paul houses are also being demolished and are being used for parking.
Ellicott Development in 2010 and 2011 purchased 10 houses on St. Paul Mall, each assessed at about $35,000. The houses previously sold in recent years for as much as $48,000 but, in cases where houses had been foreclosed upon, for as little as $3,500 and $10,000.
Ellicott Development bought an 11th St. Paul property from the city of Buffalo in 2013 for $30,000.. The St. Paul Mall houses aren’t the first ones sold at a premium price only to be knocked down for another project related to the Medical Campus.
Kaleida Health in 2009 paid $160,000 to $230,000 each for four houses on Michigan Avenue and Maple Street in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt neighborhood assessed for as little as $16,000. Two nearby properties, at least one vacant, sold for $65,000 each. The land was needed for the HighPointe skilled nursing home built on Michigan and Maple. The six Fruit Belt properties, records show, cost Kaleida $865,000.
“We understand we are disrupting people’s lives, so we have to give you compensation,” said Joseph Kessler, who was Kaleida’s chief financial officer at the time.