Other neighborhoods might not be so welcoming, but a plan to transform a shuttered school into low-income apartments, many for people who receive mental health treatment, won praise from Riverside residents during a ground-breaking Wednesday.
School 60, also known as Riverside Academy, will be the site of a $20 million transformation by DePaul Key Housing, which is constructing 68 apartments and preserving the school’s much-loved auditorium for community use.
Forty-five of the units will provide housing for state Office of Mental Health consumers, who will receive ongoing support services from DePaul.
Some neighbors said they were concerned at first about how the property would be managed but said from touring other DePaul properties, they were convinced the development would be a benefit to the neighborhood.
Others acknowledged the ethnic, economic and social diversity in the community and said they weren’t hesitant to embrace the project.
“We need to support our community and all in our community,” said Mary Ann Kedron, president of the Black Rock Riverside Alliance.
The Riverside area’s active neighborhood groups had been looking for a reuse of the school, which has a commanding presence on Ontario Street and retains some architectural charm but has been stripped of its plumbing and has many broken windows.
DePaul, which provides housing and services for populations with different needs, had been looking for property in the area, and the school was an ideal candidate for redevelopment, said Gillian J. Conde, vice president of DePaul Key Housing.
The one- and two-bedroom units are scheduled to be completed in early 2014 and will be restricted to people with incomes below $30,000. The project has not received any federal funding for veterans, though the units will be marketed to veterans, at the request of neighborhood groups, Conde said.
The school, which educated children from kindergarten through eighth grade, opened in 1896 and carries meaning for many in the neighborhood, whose children were students there.
“We’re totally excited by it,” said Helen Hewett, who lives in Riverside. “We’ve been waiting a while.”
Dan and Nettie Milovich, who live nearby, have been waiting for the property to be redeveloped for 10 years.
Dan Milovich said that as a firefighter, he knows it’s a fire hazard but that he was also concerned when he found out that the project was going to be low-income housing. Once the Miloviches learned about how DePaul maintains its other properties, their concerns were settled, they said.
The project is being funded in part with $1.5 million from the city’s share of federal Housing and Urban Development funds, low-income housing and historic tax credits and funding from the state Office of Mental Health.
The state’s Western New York Regional Economic Development Council announced Wednesday that it had awarded the project $3.25 million, which will come from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Renewal.
“We look at this as a development key for this community,” Kedron said. “This is the first major investment in this community for 30 years.”
The project is expected to create more than 350 construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs related to human services for residents and around-the-clock building security.
In a sale that closed this week, DePaul purchased the property from the city for $180,000.