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Credit union plans to buy, tear down Canton’s Newman Center

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CANTON - The St. Thomas More Newman Center, 33 Court St., will be torn down once a signed purchase offer is finalized between St. Mary’s Catholic Church and the St. Lawrence Federal Credit Union.

Since 2004 the credit union has been leasing office space in the former Canton fire station building, 11 Court St.

Chief Executive Officer Todd R. Mashaw said tearing down the Newman Center will provide space to construct a one-story building with a drive through, which the existing branch office lacks.

Installing a customer parking lot with 10-15 spaces is also part of the plan.

“We weren’t planning to do this immediately, but when that location came up for sale we were interested,” Mr. Mashaw said. “We love the location and we have a lot of county employees who are members. It was important for us to stay in that area.”

It will be easier to construct a new building rather than re-use the existing building space which lacks parking, he said.

Mr. Mashaw wouldn’t disclose the purchase price because the sale has not been finalized. St. Mary’s parish was asking $300,000 for the Newman Center.

The Newman Center was built in 1971 to provide Catholic campus ministry services for students attending SUNY Canton and St. Lawrence University. It was originally a separate parish from St. Mary’s, but the two later merged. Some community organizations also met at the center.

The Rev. Douglas J. Lucia, pastor at Canton’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church, said colleges now provide space on their own campuses for ministry programs.

Church officials have decided to sell off under-utilized buildings and instead direct more funding toward programming, he said.

“We’re trying to downsize properties and put that money into campus ministry programs,” Father Lucia said. ”I’m relieved that someone else has a use for that space.”

Options for the Newman Center were also limited because the building is not handicapped accessible, he said.

The parish had to receive permission to sell the building from the Bishop Terry R. LaValley, Diocese of Ogdensburg.

The sale won’t be finalized until the credit union completes an appraisal and an inspection that includes checking if asbestos abatement work is required. The cost of tearing the center down and removing the debris also has to be determined.

Tentative plans call for closing on the real-estate transaction this fall and beginning construction next March or April, with a tentative August 2014 opening date.

Plans call for a 2,500 to 3,000-square-foot building that will blend well with the other buildings on Court Street, Mr. Mashaw said.

The St. Lawrence Federal Credit Union has 10,400 members total, including roughly 2,000 members in Canton, Mr. Mashaw said. The company also operates two branch offices in Ogdensburg.

Prior to 2004, the Canton branch office operated in the St. Lawrence County Courthouse.

“Our Canton members support us well and we want to make it convenient for them,” Mr. Mashaw said. “We wanted to have a permanent footprint, rather than just leasing space.”

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