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Niagara Falls junior high conversion begins Thursday

Building Update is a regular feature highlighting progress on development projects throughout the region.

Project name: Niagara City Lofts

Address: 561 Portage Road, Niagara Falls

Developer: CB Emmanuel

Cost: $22 million

Description: Conversion of former South Junior High School into adaptive reuse complex with both residential apartments and commercial space

Completion date: Late spring 2017

Lowdown: Work will formally begin Thursday on the $22 million conversion of an abandoned Niagara Falls middle school into a new mixed-use complex with residential apartments and commercial space, as state and local officials join with the developer to break ground.

CB Emmanuel plans to renovate the former South Junior High School into 61 loft apartments for “workforce housing,” as well as 18,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. The building also will have a community room with a computer lab and common laundry area.

The new Niagara City Lofts adaptive-reuse project will include 49 one-bedroom apartments, 10 two-bedroom units and two studio lofts, aimed at employees of nearby organizations such as Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and the Seneca Niagara Hotel & Casino. Rents will range from $475 to $800 per month, as 10 units will be priced at market rates, while the rest will be “affordable” housing for those who are at or below 60 percent of the area median income.

Eleven apartments are specifically targeted for those with special needs, including veterans. Eight will be reserved for those with rental assistance vouchers, while 43 will be leased to individuals earning between 50 percent and 60 percent of the median income.

Originally built in 1923, the former school closed in 1987 and was used as a community center in intervening years. CB Emmanuel bought it in late 2013.

The project will be financed with $13.7 million in private funding, $5.7 million from the state’s Housing Trust Fund Corp., and state and federal housing and historic tax credits. CB Emmanuel received a $12 million loan on the project from KeyBank last month.

– Jonathan D. Epstein