Holley community sees plans to renovate old high school
HOLLEY – Members of the Holley community got a first glimpse Tuesday evening of what the old Holley High School will look like when an extensive proposed restoration/development project is completed.
Developers, architects and engineers presented initial plans and answered questions during a meeting at the Holley Middle School/High School auditorium regarding their efforts to restore the building to its former glory for use as mixed income senior housing with the village office and meeting space.
“Stay positive, support the project and be patient,” Holley Mayor Brian Sorochty told those in attendance.
He said the project is important for the village, the Town of Murray, surrounding communities and Orleans County.
Home Leasing is in the process of acquiring the school – located at the intersection of routes 31 and 237 in the center of the village. Officials said Orleans County has agreed to foreclose on the property, allowing it to be sold. Home Leasing is working along with Edgemere Development, Glasow Simmons Architecture L.L.P. and Marathon Engineering – all Rochester based firms – on the project, and officials from all stakeholders attended the meeting.
Also in attendance was Landmark Society of Western New York Executive Director Wayne Goodman. In 2013, the old Holley High School was part of the first-ever “Five to Revive” list compiled by the Landmark Society of significant historical structures in need of saving, partly because of their architectural/historical value and partly because of their, “latent opportunistic value,” Goodman said.
He said the Holley school merited making the list due to its Neo-Classical architectural style, the fact it was once the center of civic life in Holley, and because of, “what it could be….. I love your village,” Goodman said, noting the village park system and walkability.
He explained that the village, town, county and developers have “moved mountains to get this far…. I have full confidence in the development team.”
Home Leasing Chair/CEO Nelson Leenhouts said it was the Landmark Society’s Five to Revive designation that brought him and John Oster of Edgemere Development out to Holley to see the school.
“I can’t recall ever being more welcomed,” he said. “We’ve asked for an awful lot and made a lot of progress.”
He said developers will work to secure financing over the winter and perhaps start construction next summer. Plans call for 41 units of senior housing. Village office space would be located on the main floor and the auditorium would be saved and restored for use as meeting space.
“We are honored to have this opportunity,” Leenhouts said. “I wake up every morning more excited than the day before.”
Charlie Oster of Edgemere Development explained the challenges of financing historic preservation/conversion projects including design standards necessary for tax credits, environmental challenges and market size.
He explained that with a small village like Holley, it is important for developers to “be sensitive to the needs of the community. To move forward this project is dependent on unshakable community support,” Oster said.
Architect Jason Simmons of Glasow Simmons Architecture, said former classrooms work very well for apartments. Existing width and height of corridors will be maintained, and restoration of woodwork and reestablishment of stairwells are also part of the plans. He also explained the name of the project – “Holley Gardens,” saying developers want to “provide an area for residents to grow their own garden.”
Home Leasing executive vice-president Kim Russell said that the building will have onsite management and maintenance and the Orleans County Office for the Aging will provide support for residents who are in need of a little extra help.
Other details explained by the development team include 72 parking spaces – the village will own and maintain the parking lots – and there will be parking off Main Street for access to village offices. An interior elevator will be installed and there will be handicapped access at the rear of the building.
The columns on the facade of the school will also be restored. Rents are expected to be in the $400-$800/unit range. Developers also explained that it is likely a PILOT program will be requested, providing developers will tax breaks while still providing municipalities with tax revenue for needed services.
Developers said they have already made a significant investment in the project and, “we feel confident over time we will get the (tax) credits we need to make this project work,” Russell said.
Once the project is complete, “you will be stuck with us for 30 years,” Nelson Leenhouts said. “We will be here to manage the property.”
Mayor Brian Sorochty thanked all those who attended, including village, town and county officials, as well as those officials who have been working to clear hurdles which have created challenges in moving the project forward. He restated that the old school making the Five to Revive list was “a primary reason why we are here today… the Landmark Society designation as a Five to Revive was huge.” He also stated his confidence in the development team, “If this team can’t pull this off, I’m not sure who else can,” the mayor said.