One month after City of Tonawanda residents approved the sale of the Central School building for $220,000, district officials say the deal has fallen through.
“[The] district has been notified by the proposed purchaser … that due to the denial of certain designations for tax and funding purposes, they will not be finalizing the purchase of the building as had been hoped,” Superintendent James Newton said at Tuesday’s Board of Eduction meeting, reading from a prepared statement.
The building had been sold in April to developer David Capretto, who reportedly had been planning to convert it to apartments. Any sale of district property must be approved by the residents of the city via referendum, which took place during the annual budget vote and board election on May 21. The community approved the sale by a 722-311 vote.
Newton said that in order to protect the district from the expense of another referendum on a potential sale, they are requiring future offers to pay a non-refundable deposit.
With the sale falling apart, it opens the door for a Tonawanda citizens group to lobby the city to purchase the Central building and turn it into a community center.
The district initially offered the building to the city, but was turned down. Shortly before the sale to Capretto, city officials took a tour of Central and finally expressed interest.
Gayle Syposs, chair of the citizens committee, said Wednesday that she felt bad for the School Board, but is hopeful to rally city leaders to support the group’s initiative. She sees the building used for an after-school program, senior citizen center and possible storage space for community groups like the library and Tonawanda Historical Society.
“We’re going to go back at it,” she said. “Everybody is interested in getting this going again, but there needs to be some communication between city officials and the School Board.”
Syposs said she’s hopeful Council President Carleton Zeisz and Mayor Ronald Pilozzi talk about the building and contact the district for a 90- or 120-day window to propose a plan for Central. The citizens group was appointed by Zeisz and has no official relationship with the district.