Developers of old Holley school and village are aggressively pursuing funding for project

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 12 July 2017 at 1:00 pm

File photo by Tom Rivers: Developers and local officials are pushing for a project to turn the former Holley High School into apartments and offices. The public may be asked to write letters in support of the project.

HOLLEY – Developers and local leaders are working to make sure the proposed restoration/development of the old Holley High School moves forward.

Members of the development team spoke before the Holley Village Board and Murray Town Board during their regular meetings Tuesday evening.

“We have to kick it up a notch,” Kim Russell, executive vice president of Home Leasing, told Holley Village Board members after speaking to the Murray Town Board.

She explained that local leaders, representatives on the state and federal levels, and community stakeholders – including those interested in living in the proposed Holley Gardens Apartments mixed income senior housing planned for the former school – must work to promote the need for the project.

“We need to tell the story from a personal level, bring the heartstring element in,” Russell said.

She and Charlie Oster of Edgemere Development explained that Orleans County is considered part of the Finger Lakes region – the most competitive region in the state for grant funding – and that it is vital for representatives to make it clear that now is Orleans County’s turn for funding.

Developers applied for funding from New York State Homes and Community Renewal last year, but the project was not funded when grants were awarded this spring.  Oster said developers are working to re-apply this fall and are strengthening the application.

“We will re-submit,” Oster said. “We believe (in this project) and will get it done. We are in the process of incorporating updates.”

Oster and Village Board members discussed why the project may not have been selected for funding on its initial try.

Oster explained the fact Holley is a rural community is one factor. “The state takes a hard look at the market,” he said. He also noted developers need to accelerate the proposed schedule of the project in order to increase the chances of obtaining funding the second time around.

Mayor Brian Sorochty noted most projects are not funded on the first application. “The project was not denied,” he said. “It wasn’t funded, most are not funded the first time.”

The Village Board approved resolutions endorsing the application of developers, who are also seeking grant funding from additional sources, including NYSERDA, the NY Main Street Grant Program, and the Empire State Economic Development Fund through a NYS Consolidated Funding Application.

Oster said the village’s participation in the application process is necessary as part of the project includes the move of the village offices to the school.

Sorochty, Oster and Russell discussed setting up a meeting in August between developers, local leaders, and state and federal representatives.

“We need to discuss details on how to move forward,” Russell said. She said State Senator Rob Ortt, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, U.S. Senator Schumer and local economic development officials should be part of the group, and that a grass roots campaign of letter writing should also be part of the effort.

“We need to do anything from grassroots up to the federal government,” she said.

The proposed Holley Gardens project includes 41 units of senior housing, village office space on the main floor, and restoration of the auditorium for use as meeting space.  Developers have said they will restore the historic building to its former glory as part of the project.

The old Holley High School made the first-ever “Five to Revive” list compiled by the Landmark Society of Western New York in 2013. That designation helped attract the interest of the developers.

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