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YOUNGSTOWN – An Amherst developer has announced that he is scrapping plans to convert the former Youngstown Cold Storage site into a senior apartment complex.

“It’s a timing issue with investors,” said Colby A. Smith, president of Manguso Development Co. “This is not a relational thing with the village. There is still a huge market for this, and the plan, the facility, everything is extremely solid.”

Asked last week if his company would consider downsizing its initial $4.7 million, 48-unit senior complex envisioned for the site, Smith said, “No. We are moving on to our next project.”

Manguso Development on April 12 presented preliminary plans in Village Hall to tear down the dilapidated structures at 701 Third St. and build a three-story senior apartment building. Manguso proposed to develop and manage the site, aimed at residents 55 and older.

Mayor Raleigh B. Reynolds said last week he could not comment on specifics, since the village had received only an informal email from Manguso Development regarding its project withdrawal. He said the village was still awaiting a formal letter.

“If this is not going forward, it’s unfortunate, but we will keep trying [to develop that site],” Reynolds said.

The village had accepted exclusive rights to negotiate with Manguso for one year, but Manguso had not yet sought any plan or permit approval for the project.

Conceptual plans for a senior housing project by Hamburg developer David Burke were dismissed in summer 2011 after he reportedly pursued a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the site. Burke’s estimated $4.5 million proposal did not even get to the public information meeting stage.

Now it’s back to the drawing board for a community that clearly supported senior housing in the village when Youngstown officials conducted a public survey in fall 2010. The village will again have to advertise for requests for proposals for the site.

“This is really sad,” said Jeanette Collesano, director of the Lewiston Senior Center. “I can’t tell you how important this is and how much we need this in this area. We need senior apartments, but we also need assisted-living housing, too.”

Reynolds said, “The [Cold Storage] site is a good location for senior housing because it’s close to the central part of the village. We have a couple of other areas of land in the village in mind if this site doesn’t become senior housing, but ideally, I think this would be good for senior housing.”

The Cold Storage complex was used to wash, store and package local apples from 1910 to 1996. It consists of a deteriorating three-story stone warehouse, a single-story brick ice house and a spray-wash area on roughly three acres, bordering on a residential area.

A vacant house at 718 Second St., owned by the farmers’ co-op that also owned the Cold Storage site, was demolished in October 2008.

Numerous engineering firms have advised that the dilapidated structures were not salvageable and that the site would need to be cleared for development, but village officials hoped a new developer would try to recoup some of the historic value of the site by salvaging some of the building materials for landscaping use, for example.

Niagara County took possession of the site after the farmers’ co-op stopped paying taxes.

The village started looking for a use for the property after it received the deed from the county in June 2008. It was a necessary step in accepting a $110,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the site.

With the help of additional county, state and federal grants, village officials oversaw cleanup of the site, which had contained PCBs, metals, arsenic and inorganic chemicals from heavy machinery.

The site was given clearance for development in early 2010 by the EPA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The village had entertained a number of different ideas for uses for the Youngstown site over the years, but Burke was the only major respondent when officials solicited requests for proposals for the site in early 2011.

Likewise, Manguso was the only major respondent when the village again looked for requests for proposals for the site earlier this year.

In the neighboring Village of Wilson, Tim and Mark Woodcock plan to open Woodcock Brothers Brewing Co. in a former century-old Cold Storage site at 638 Lake St. in the coming weeks.

Unlike the Youngstown structure, the Wilson Cold Storage site had been preserved and was able to be salvaged and rehabilitated at a cost of about $1.5 million.

The brothers plan a micro-brewery and restaurant for half of the 45,000-square-foot space, renting out the rest for a salon, gift shop, olive oil store and apple vodka distillery, with two more spots still available.

“You can’t really compare the Youngstown and Wilson Cold Storage sites because the condition of the two buildings is totally different,” said Reynolds.

“There was a hole in the roof of ours for a number of years that was never taken care of, and it ruined everything inside. It might have been salvageable if it had been taken care of years ago.”

email: niagaranews@buffnews.com