Old Holley High School restoration earns top preservation award from Landmark Society

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 December 2021 at 11:40 am

$17 million project turned long-vacant structure into 41 apartments, village offices

Photos by Tom Rivers: The former Holley High School was given a major transformation, including new columns, and a conversion into apartments and the village offices, while preserving some of the original characteristics of the school.

HOLLEY – The $17 million transformation of the former Holley High School has won the top preservation award by the Landmark Society of Western New York.

Home Leasing, developer of the project, will receive the Barber Conable Award during a presentation on Dec. 12. The award recognizes a large-scale rehabilitation of a historic building that was completed within the past two years.

The cover of Landmarks, the magazine of the Landmark Society of Western New York, features the old Holley High School which has been turned into the Holley Gardens by Home Leasing.

The award was created to honor the late Congressman Barber Conable of Genesee County, who pushed to establish the Federal Investment Tax Credit Program for the rehabilitation of historic, income-producing buildings.

The Holley school had been vacant and neglected for nearly three decades. It was last used by a manufacturer that went bankrupt in the mid-1990s.

“This impressive rehabilitation is the result of a talented team that included an exceptional developer, veteran contractor, supportive local officials and experienced preservation consultants, who tackled a daunting list of challenges to complete this remarkable $17 million project,” the Landmark Society stated in announcing the award.

Home Leasing Corp. teamed with Edgemere Development LLC to rehabilitate a building from 1931. The Landmark Society called the structure, last used as a school in 1975, “of the most important civic buildings in Orleans County.”

The site was converted into 41 mixed-income apartments and the new administrative headquarters of the village of Holley. The project was completed using the Historic Investment Tax Credits for buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The project in 2020 won one of 11 New York State Historic Preservation Awards.

For many years it pained the Holley community to see its gradual demise – the many broken windows, peeling paint, rotted columns and a fate that seemed destined for the wrecking ball.

Holley village officials reached out to developers over the years, pitching the site for apartments and other uses. But a deal never came together – until 2018.

Home Leasing and Home Leasing Construction in Rochester committed to transforming the building into 41 apartments for seniors and the Holley village offices, with the auditorium space being a meeting room.

The old school, shown during a recent evening, has been a major uplift to the community. The school is located along Route 31, one of the county’s most travelled roads.

Here is how the building looked in May 2018. Contractors removed the trees coming out of the façade, and put back columns in the front, among the many extensive upgrades.

A worker cleans in the stairwell at the former Holley High School on April 1, 2020. The original railings were saved as part of the construction project.

Here is how the hallways looked in April 2020 after most of the work was done. The old lockers were included as a decorative touch and to connect to the building’s original use.

The main meeting room is pictured in August 2020, after the village relocated its offices to the space. Home Leasing was able to refurbish about 70 seats from the old auditorium. There are also about 40 seats up in the balcony that are for display and aren’t available to the public.