A mostly vacant school in the heart of Kenmore would see new life as apartments and retail space under plans before the village Planning Board.
The former George Washington Elementary School, 1 Delaware Road, would be redeveloped into 20 market-rate, one- and two-bedroom apartments, according to plans of Ellicott Development Co., which purchased the 51,000-square-foot building last year for $725,000. A single-story, 5,500-square-foot addition for offices, retail and restaurants also would be built on the west side of the building, facing Delaware Avenue.
“We thought right from the get-go that it was a great opportunity for an adaptive reuse-type project, something that would contribute to all of the activity in the village,” said Thomas M. Fox, project manager.
Bringing the addition out to the sidewalk would continue the pedestrian-friendly feel created by shops on the opposite side of Delaware and also eliminate the flat masonry gymnasium wall currently facing the street, he said.
“It’s all about continuing and adapting that existing site to the village and really conveying the village feel that it lacks right now there,” he said.
Village officials support the plans.
“It fits with our comprehensive plan with the mixed use and obviously with the look that complements the streetscape,” said Kenmore Clerk-Treasurer Kathleen Johnson.
The three-story building on 1.5 acres was constructed in 1905 and closed as a school in 1982. More recently, it was used by Heritage Centers, which serves the developmentally disabled and their families.
Currently, Creative Child Day Care Center is the only tenant and occupies 13,000 to 15,000 square feet over several floors, Fox said. The day care facility would remain on site and be given its own entrance, he said.
Ellicott Development, owned by Carl and William Paladino, wants to begin work late this summer or early fall, although the project still needs site plan approval from the Planning Board, which scheduled a special meeting Tuesday to review plan changes.
“We think it’s going to be a very positive addition to the Village of Kenmore,” Johnson said. “The Planning Board has done a thorough review of the project and has worked with the developer to make changes we feel are going to even enhance the original designs even more.”
The project is the first to apply under the village’s new planned unit development, in which the Village Board is given discretion to fit zoning to the community’s needs, Johnson said.
Ellicott Development is undertaking a similar project in Amherst. The Amherst Town Board rezoned the 3.4-acre property at 1350 Eggert Road, paving the way for the redevelopment of the former Eggert Road Elementary School into apartments and office space.
In Kenmore, Ellicott hopes to attract young professionals and empty-nesters to the second- and third-floor patio apartments, Fox said.
The apartments may be given a “schoolhouse look” by incorporating chalkboards, high ceilings, big windows and decorative finishes, he said.
“We want to try and communicate that it was a school,” he said. “We don’t want to totally have that lost. We want to still communicate that history of the building.”
The first-floor commercial space could house an insurance agency or law office, Fox told the Planning Board.
Plans call for at least 87 parking spaces in the lot behind the building.
A village community group was less enthusiastic about the plans and said it would prefer to see owner-occupied condominiums in the space.
“We don’t really want to see any more residential rental units in the village because we really have a concern about balanced housing,” said Melissa Foster, president of the Kenmore Village Improvement Society.
Concern has also been raised about existing landscaping, particularly around the gazebo at the intersection of Delaware Road and Avenue, which is a popular spot for photos.
“Our plans call for that all to be left in place,” Fox said. “We don’t expect to disturb that landscaping. I know that’s been a focal point for a lot of activity in the village.”
The concrete and steel building is structurally solid, Fox said. Most of the $5 million in project costs will go to updating mechanical systems and the roof.
“We can really work with it,” he said.