Peo­ple Inc. buys North Ton­awanda school for a≠ord­able hous­ing project

The Buffalo News - - BUSINESS - By Jonathan D. Ep­stein NEWS BUSI­NESS RE­PORTER

So­cial ser­vices agency Peo­ple Inc. has ac­quired a for­mer North Ton­awanda pub­lic school, with plans to turn it into af­ford­able hous­ing, in­clud­ing a com­po­nent for dis­abled in­di­vid­u­als with trau­matic brain in­juries.

The Amherst-based non­profit paid $625,000 for the 40,263-square-foot for­mer Grant El­e­men­tary School, buy­ing it from the North Ton­awanda City School Dis­trict, said Vito Pi­cone, se­nior di­rec­tor of busi­ness devel­op­ment at McGuire Devel­op­ment Co., who bro­kered the deal.

The sale and re­de­vel­op­ment have been in the works for nearly two years, since the con­tract was first agreed upon in De­cem­ber 2016, af­ter Peo­ple Inc. beat out two other pro­pos­als.

Lo­cated at 25 Grant St., the stand­alone brick build­ing was con­structed in 1953 and sits on four acres of land, with park­ing. The two-story build­ing near the cor­ner of Chris­tiana and Van­der­voort streets has been on the mar­ket since 2013, and was listed at one time for $675,000.

The school it­self has been closed for more than four years, but the build­ing has been leased out for of­fice space in the in­terim, with as many as six ten­ants oc-


cu­py­ing it. Most re­cently, the build­ing housed a preschool, an of­fice for the dis­trict teach­ers union and BOCES, but their leases ex­pired in June, said Jo­ce­lyn S. Bos, vice pres­i­dent of hous­ing devel­op­ment for Peo­ple Inc.

“It’s nice to see the for­mer Grant Street El­e­men­tary build­ing be­ing re­de­vel­oped into great adap­tive res­i­den­tial use,” Pi­cone said.

Peo­ple Inc. plans to ren­o­vate the build­ing into 52 apart­ments for low-in­come adults, in­clud­ing 12 for dis­abled peo­ple with mo­bil­ity, vi­sion or hear­ing im­pair­ments. The in­come range for el­i­gi­ble ten­ants is $18,000 to $56,000 per year, Bos said.

Un­der the de­sign by Long As­so­ci­ates, the new Grant Street School Apart­ments will in­clude a mix­ture of one- and two-bed­room apart­ments.

Fi­nanc­ing for the $16 mil­lion project in­cludes low-in­come hous­ing tax cred­its from the state Divi­sion of Hous­ing and Com­mu­nity Re­newal, plus a prop­erty tax break and a con­struc­tion loan from Evans Bank. Evans and North­west Bank are pur­chas­ing the tax cred­its, Bos said.

Peo­ple Inc. re­ceived mu­nic­i­pal ap­proval for the project a year ago, and Cala­mar Con­struc­tion Co. be­gan as­bestos re­moval and de­mo­li­tion work on the build­ing this week. Bos said of­fi­cials ex­pect to be­gin leas­ing units by Jan­uary or Fe­bru­ary 2020.

The project rep­re­sents the non­profit’s 125th hous­ing project in West­ern New York, with 1,200 units, in­clud­ing 700 for se­niors.

A ren­der­ing of the pro­posed Grant Street School Apart­ments, by Peo­ple Inc. The agency plans to ren­o­vate the build­ing into apart­ments for low-in­come adults.

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