Tonawanda News

Local News

December 18, 2012

People Inc. to apply for funding to turn Highland into 38 multi-use apartments

Tonawanda News — A local nonprofit is pressing on with plans to turn Highland Elementary School in the City of Tonawanda into low-income apartments after the original plan for the structure fell through over the summer. 

The People Inc., goal to rent out the building from the owner, S. Spoth, LLC, and convert it into senior housing apartments hinged on receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But their application for funding was denied early this summer, making the plans impossible.

“It wasn’t a problem with the application,” Rhonda Frederick, People Inc. chief operating officer, said. “Unfortunately there isno more HUD 202 funding at this time.”

The organization isn’t giving up, though. 

“We are looking at a state program for funding,” she said. “They definitely have more funding available.” 

The application for the program is set to go out in January and the nonprofit will likely hear back in the spring, around April. 

If all goes according to plan, construction on the renovation, which will cost $2 million according to the city’s documents, will begin in the summer and will take about nine months. 

The 38 apartments will be available for seniors, young professionals and those with disabilities — unlike the original plan, which would have served only seniors.

“It will be all income based,” Frederick said. 

But funding isn’t the only hurdle People Inc. must conquer. A variety of the city’s zoning procedures must be altered for the project, and the city’s building department denied the building permit in November based on four zoning inconsistencies.

In a letter to the nonprofit, city building inspector Kevin Rank said the city’s minimum lot size for the project is listed 135,500 square feet, while the lot size of the Highland property is significantly smaller —  only 80,127 square feet. 

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