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Housing for people living with mental illness has been proposed for an empty West Seneca site with a department store history.

The 100-unit development at 2400 Seneca St. would feature 75 single-occupancy studio apartments and 25 units of designated “workforce housing” for those earning less than $27,000 a year, according to Gillian J. Conde, vice president of DePaul Properties.

DePaul Community Services is a Rochester-based, nonprofit organization that serves people with special needs.

Case managers would be on site for those with mental illness, Conde said.

“Everybody that will live here has the ability to live in the community now,” she said.

“People who have supports in their housing do so much better.”

All tenants would be subjected to background checks by the state Office of Mental Health in order for the project to receive tax credits, Conde said.

DePaul doesn’t serve pedophiles, arsonists, or active drug or alcohol users, she said.

“If they have a history, they are knocked out,” Conde said.

“We end up having waiting lists for our community beds,” she continued.

She said that they’re beautiful, safe and secure and that people want to live there.

The project, which would cost an estimated $20 million and create 40 permanent jobs, was discussed at a recent work session of the Town Board.

Conde said DePaul’s projects typically are granted a 10-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement but didn’t have specifics for the board.

The agency is waiting for an appraisal of the site, which has a 100,000-square-foot building that would be demolished.

The site also would have to be rezoned, and a variance would be needed to accommodate parking.

Built in the 1960s, the building has had tenants including Twin Fair, Gold Circle, Hills, Ames and Big Lots.

In 2010, the town’s Planning Board granted site-plan approval for the construction of a Walmart supercenter, but the proposal was abandoned.

Once the appraisal is in, Conde said, DePaul will schedule a meeting with neighbors and invite them to tour its other facilities.

“We like to partner with the community; that’s a huge part of what we do,” she said.

DePaul operates two other mental health residential programs in Buffalo: Seneca Square, which opened seven years ago, and Kensington Square, which opened in 2003.

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com