Olean Times Herald [Olean NY]
November 15, 2023
By Kellen M. Quigley
A federal judge on Wednesday approved Buffalo developer Carl Paladino’s winning bid of $200,000 to buy the former Archbishop Walsh Academy buildings and campus owned by the bankrupt Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.
The Buffalo News reported that Olean 2020 LLC, a limited liability corporation owned by Paladino, outbid three other bidders at an auction Tuesday for the property.
Proceeds from the sale will likely be used toward a negotiated settlement with more than 850 child sex abuse claimants in the diocese’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.
The building at 208 N. 24th St. has been Walsh’s home since its construction in 1959. The school, as it was announced in 1957, was to be named after Archbishop Thomas J. Walsh, who had died five years earlier. He had deep roots in the Southern Tier after studying at nearby St. Bonaventure University.
In early January, Walsh officials had spoken with a potential buyer, who was not identified, about purchasing the campus. The Times Herald learned the offer was being reviewed by the Diocese before being considered by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
The Diocese dropped an earlier request to the bankruptcy court in 2020 to sell the building to the Walsh Foundation for $150,000. Creditors complained the price was too low. After the diocese filed for federal bankruptcy protection, any such sale had to obtain court approval.
AMID THE UNCERTAINTY, Southern Tier Catholic School — the primary school that moved to the North 24th Street campus in 2009 — relocated to the former St. John’s School building on North Union Street over the summer. Walsh officials reported no secondary-level students were enrolled for the fall semester.
Frank McAndrew, chairman of the board of trustees, said news of the building sale may cause some to feel sadness and longing for what used to be. He said he understands the nostalgia many alumni and supporters have for the Archbishop Walsh High School building as a place, himself included.
“Catholic schools are about many things — faith, tradition, community, academic excellence,” he said. “But for me, they’re about being part of something bigger than ourselves and teaching our children what it looks like to sacrifice for something we love.”
McAndrew said it is important to honor and thank all those people who worked so hard for so long and gave so much of themselves to build Walsh into what it was. Additionally, he said he finds joy in the fact that this is not the end for Catholic education in the Southern Tier.
“The impact of all the people who built Archbishop Walsh High School continues to live on in real tangible ways at our new home at St. John the Evangelist Parish in North Olean,” he said.
McAndrew said the school move has allowed the district to look to the future and embrace change while staying true to the school’s original mission: to prepare our students to live meaningful, faith-filled lives of leadership and service.
“Our school’s remarkable alumni stand as a testament that throughout the years we have been successful at achieving that goal, and we are thrilled to be continuing that tradition,” he added.
Enrollment for Montessori through eighth-grade students at STCS is now open. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (716) 372-8122 to join us today. To honor the school’s history and to partner in shaping its future, consider donating to Southern Tier Catholic School at stcswalsh.org/donate.
ULTIMATELY, the bankruptcy court in September approved a so-called stalking horse bid process, after Walsh Huskies LLC, a real estate development company, signed a purchase agreement with the diocese for $50,000 and agreed to be the stalking horse bidder. Walsh Huskies ended up being outbid by Paladino and another bidder, Daniel Walton.
Paladino, who ran as a Republican for the newly drawn 23rd Congressional District in 2022, founded Buffalo-based Ellicott Development in 1973 and serves as its chairman. In a comment to The News, Paladino said he doesn’t have a specific plan yet for the former high school campus other than he expects it will be “primarily residential.”
Olean 2020, a subsidiary of Ellicott Development, is also in the process of building a Starbucks at 2810 W. State St. as well as a 42-unit, multi-family housing project at 2101 W. State St. and a two-story, 10-unit apartment building at 3139 W. State St. behind Harbor Freight on the former DeSoto Motel property purchased several years ago by Ellicott.
The former Walsh building is the first of what could be many properties to be sold by the diocese, which has pledged to pay at least $100 million to abuse claimants.
The diocese owns 37 properties across six counties and this past June sought new appraisals on the value of those parcels, which include its Catholic Center in Buffalo, five other school complexes, two priest retirement homes and a former seminary campus in the town of Aurora on the market for $5.3 million.
(Contact editor/reporter Kellen Quigley at email@example.com.)