Historic designation could spur old Holley High School renovations

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 May 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – The old Holley High School is being eyed by a developer for senior apartments. If the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the developer would be eligible for tax credits for 40 percent of the capital improvement costs.

HOLLEY – Developers have raised village officials’ hopes before, offering to turn a vacant landmark building into senior housing and offices.

But those deals to renovate the old Holley High School have always fallen through in the past 20 years. The financials didn’t quite work for the project.

Mayor John Kenney is optimistic a proposal by George Hsiao of Rochester could work, and reclaim the building as an attractive asset for the community. Hsiao wants to convert the site at the corner of routes 31 and 237 into senior housing, while the auditorium is used as a performance venue, Kenney said.

Hsiao has ties to Orleans County. He opened the new Kentucky Fried Chicken last year in Albion.

The Holley project has a better chance of fruition this time because the building could soon be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Kenney said the village is working on that designation for the property. If the old school, built in 1931, receives the historic designation, 40 percent of capital improvement costs would be eligible for tax credits with 20 percent each from the state and federal governments.

Kenney believes that will make the project financially attractive for Hsiao.

Kenney said Hsiao also is expected to soon approach local government leaders about a tax abatement plan for the old school as he works to make the project financially feasible.

The building on Thursday was named one of “Five to Revive,” an inaugural list of five high-profile sites in the Rochester area that need investment. The Landmark Society of Western New York established Five to Revive.

“I am very pleased we are on the list,” Kenney said. “The Landmark Society sees the importance of the old school. They know it is very important to our village.”

The organization has been active in the Holley area the past two years, working to save the old stone store in Clarendon by getting that site on the National Register. The Landmark Society also helped Clarendon officials apply for historic designation for Hillside Cemetery.

Landmark officials support the National Register designation for the old school. The organization also wants to see Holley’s Public Square on the list.

“This historic district, situated in the core of the village, is a significant collection of late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century commercial, religious, residential, and educational architecture,” the group stated Thursday as part of the announcement about the old high school.