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Holley community sees plans to renovate old high school

A rendering shows what the restored and revitalized former Holley High School in the village will look like after its conversion to senior housing and village office/meeting space. Note the portico with columns and pediment will be restored to the facade.

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 28 September 2016 at 8:33 am
Photos by Kristina Gabalski: Holley Mayor Brian Sorochty speaks during an informational meeting Tuesday evening at the Holley Middle School/High School on development restoration plans for the old Holley High School. The Neo-Classical building was constructed in 1931 and was last used as a school in the mid-1970s. The village has been working for several years to find a developer for the historic structure which sits in a prominent spot in the downtown business district.

Photos by Kristina Gabalski: Holley Mayor Brian Sorochty speaks during an informational meeting Tuesday evening at the Holley Middle School/High School on development restoration plans for the old Holley High School. The Neo-Classical building was constructed in 1931 and was last used as a school in the mid-1970s. 

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.

Wayne Goodman, executive director of the Landmark Society of Western New York speaks during Tuesday’s information meeting. Village officials said the Landmark Society’s 2013 designation of the old Holley High School as one of the first Five to Revive historic buildings attracted a development team to work on plans to restore and convert the building to mixed senior housing and village office and meeting space. Another building on the 2013 Five to Revive List - the Eastman Dental Dispensary - has recently been restored by the same developer - Home Leasing - for senior housing.  Goodman said a ribbon cutting at that site is planned today.

Wayne Goodman, executive director of the Landmark Society of Western New York speaks during Tuesday’s information meeting. Village officials said the Landmark Society’s 2013 designation of the old Holley High School as one of the first Five to Revive historic buildings attracted a development team to work on plans to restore and convert the building to mixed senior housing and village office and meeting space. Another building on the 2013 Five to Revive List – the Eastman Dental Dispensary – has recently been restored by the same developer – Home Leasing – for senior housing.  Goodman said a ribbon cutting at that site is planned today.

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.”

Developers presented a proposed site plan which includes parking to be owned and maintained by the Village of Holley. Mayor Brian Sorochty said there will be spaces for residents and unused spaces will be available for public use. Note the short driveway and parking off Main Street towards the front of the building for the village offices which will be housed in the front of the school.

Developers presented a proposed site plan which includes parking to be owned and maintained by the Village of Holley. Mayor Brian Sorochty said there will be spaces for residents and unused spaces will be available for public use. Note the short driveway and parking off Main Street towards the front of the building for the village offices which will be housed in the front of the school.

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.

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