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Former St. George Convent to be Redeveloped as Apartments

By Nicholas Rizzi | June 18, 2015 8:25am
 The former convent at 78 Fort Place is in contract to be bought and turned into more than 30 market rate apartments.
The former convent at 78 Fort Place is in contract to be bought and turned into more than 30 market rate apartments.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

ST. GEORGE — A former convent in St. George will be developed into more than 30 apartments.

It follows a successful fight by the community to stop the building being turned into a mental health facility.

Developer George Christo, president of Door to Door Realty and a St. George resident, is in the process of buying the building at 78 Fort Place from St. Joseph's Medical Center.

He wants to build market rate rental units, said R. Randy Lee, the lawyer representing Christo.

"[Christo's] goal is to develop it and, keeping with the theme and aspirations in the community, to make sure St. George turns into an urban mecca to be part of the renaissance," Lee said.

Christo declined to comment for this story.

Preliminary plans call for a full gut rehab of the building, built in 1962. The developer expects to finish the sale later this year with units available to rent by the end of 2016, Lee said.

The deal was first reported by the Staten Island Advance.

Theo Dorian, president of the St. George Civic Association, said the plans come as a relief for residents who have fought for years to halt the creation of a residence for mentally ill patients in the space.

"This is very good news for the community and we have supported the idea of any type of housing there to bring more people to the neighborhood," Dorian said.

"I'm very excited that this finally looks like this is coming to an end."

St. Joseph's Medical Center bought the building in 2011, as part of a $38 million purchase of the bankrupt St. Vincent Catholic Medical Center, the Advance reported.

St. Joseph's did not respond to a request for comment.

Before the building switched hands in 2005, St. Vincent revealed plans to turn the building into a state-funded residency for 59 mentally ill patients, but it was met with heavy resistance from residents and elected officials, the Advance reported. 

The state approved the plans and in 2008 St. Vincent bought the building using $3 million from the Office of Mental Health, the Advance reported.

But in 2011, David Goldfarb, on behalf St. George Civic Association and several other community groups, sued the state and St. Joseph's to block the plans.

Neighbors opposed the plan because they felt the neighborhood was already saturated with social services. They were also concerned at the lack of security measures planned for the building and its proximity to several schools, Dorian said. 

"It's so very close to homes as well as within walking distance of maybe six schools," said Dorian. "We felt this was so bad."

The legal battle is still ongoing. A hearing is set for September, but Dorian expects to settle if plans to sell the building and redevelop it into apartments go through, he said.

Aside from the development at 78 Fort Place, Christo has been involved with several other buildings in the neighborhood — like 2-4 St. Paul's Ave. — and previously promised the civic association to dedicate a portion of his property for community use, Dorian said.

"The fact that he's a resident in the area says a lot," Dorian said. "A developer is going to only want to help the community in which he raises his kid."