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Schools reborn as apartments don’t pay much in taxes

Photos by Tom Rivers: The former Albion grammar school, renovated for $7 million a decade ago, has 30 apartments for senior citizens on East Academy Street.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 December 2018 at 8:50 am

Turning big school buildings into apartments and offices costs many millions of dollars.

Home Leasing in Rochester has started work on the former Holley High School, turning a building that had been vacant for about 30 years into 41 apartments for senior citizens with about 6,000 square feet also to be used as the Village of Holley offices.

The Holley project will cost about $17 million. Tax credits and grants have been critical for the project to move forward.

The big cost for renovation won’t result in a property tax boom for Holley. Home Leasing is paying $13,500 in a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) beginning in 2021. The $13,500 will be shared among Holley Central, the Village of Holley, Orleans County and the Town of Murray.

Home Leasing in Rochester faces an ambitious project in turning the long-vacant former Holley High School into 41 apartments and the offices for the Village of Holley.

The 30-year PILOT agreement has the amount in payments increasing 2 percent each year until it reaches $23,973.90 in 2050.

Those 41 apartments would generate about $330 each in annual tax revenue in 2021 with the PILOT in 2021.

The owner of a house in Holley, valued at $80,000, pays about $4,000 in taxes. The tax rate for the school, village, town and county is about $50 per $1,000 of assessed property.

The renovation of the old school was never looked at as a tax windfall. Village officials didn’t want a prominent location in the community to continue to deteriorate, oppressing the entire neighborhood. The property also was in bankruptcy and had long stopped generating any taxes.

Albion also witnessed a stunning $7 million transformation of an old school. PathStone, formerly Rural Opportunities, in 2007 started work on the former Albion Grammar School, which was built in 1906 with gray Medina sandstone. The school on East Academy Street served kindergarten through grade six before closing in the early 1970s. It was originally a high school.

Rural Opportunities in 2009 opened the Albion Academy with 30 apartments for senior citizens, as well as space on the first floor for the Office for the Aging and the Arc of Orleans County. The Meals on Wheels and Nutri-faire program is run from the Academy.

Rural Opportunities wanted to plan its expenses for taxes. It reached a deal with the local municipalities to pay what the site was generating in taxes, $5,800, when it was privately owned with only a few apartments.

The Town of Albion, Village of Albion, school district and county agreed to keep the tax burden at $5,800 annually for 10 years.

The Albion Academy, like the Holley school, was viewed as an opportunity for affordable senior housing, while saving an important community landmark and providing a big lift to a neighborhood.

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