Fontanese Folts Aubrecht Ernst Bammel, Architects, PC, Mercy Center

Mercy Center – Buffalo, New York
Fontanese Folts Aubrecht Ernst Bammel, Architects, PC – East Aurora, New York
Type of Facility/Setting: Convent

Facility Contact: Sister Elaine Franz, Administrator

Firm: Fontanese Folts Aubrecht Ernst Bammel, Architects, PC, (716) 652-3413

Design Team: Donald E. Aubrecht, Principal-in-Charge; Alvin T. Fontanese, Principal Designer; Philip S. DiNicola, Project Architect

Photography: Daniel Doering (except inset)

Resident Capacity: 15 units (Skilled Nursing); 15 units (Assisted Living); 59 units (Independent Living)

Space/Resident (sq. ft.): 1,070

Total Area (sq. ft.): 95,225

Total Cost (excluding land): $9.9 million

Cost/Sq. Ft.: $104

Completion: June 1999

The successful transformation of Mt. Mercy Convent into the Mercy Center required the diligent collaboration of all the parties involved. Recognizing the increasing age of its members, the leadership team of the Sisters of Mercy realized that the increasing age of their facility required action. Built more than 80 years ago in the South Buffalo neighborhood, the facility had long been an important icon of the area. The masonry exterior was basically sound, but the interior needed a complete renovation. Using a chapel and an auditorium as the central focus, the original layout organized the upper two floors as small, individual living quarters with central toilets and provided for all of the community functions at the first level, including dining, classrooms and administration.

Retaining the chapel as the central focus, the renovated scheme kept the exterior essentially intact but created a more vibrant environment. It also provided for the potential transformation of the facility into an assisted living facility, should the number of its members significantly decline. The principal alterations to the exterior included the addition of a porte cochere with a lift to provide barrier-free access to the main lobby.

Additionally, the original open-air porches were enclosed to provide convenient, year-round solariums and lounge spaces overlooking the Olmsted-designed park across the street. Windows were replaced with energy-efficient, insulated units, and the heating-only system was replaced with individually controllable heating and cooling units. The living units became comfortable studio apartments with individual baths, arranged into congregate groups of six to eight and sharing a common living and dining space. This provided for a choice of dining alternatives-i.e., within the immediate group or at the redesigned and rebuilt central dining room. The overall scheme used the differing existing conditions to provide 59 unique independent living units arranged within the structure of a community and maintaining the important historic features.

A 15-bed long-term care unit and a 15-bed assisted living unit also were provided. Each has a lounge/dining area and activities area. Elevators were added at each of the existing wings. As residents’ needs change with age and health, they can receive the level of help needed within the same facility. Should the day arrive that residents from outside the Mercy Community be needed to maintain the financial viability of the Center, they can easily be included.

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