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Housing for elderly proposed at former Military Road school

TOWN OF NIAGARA – Military Road School, which has been vacant for at least 25 years, may be part of a housing complex for the elderly.

Developer Dave Tosetto of Youngstown described his future plans for the site to Town Board members Wednesday as being similar to the Mount View Health Facility. Tosetto, who successfully reopened the Lockport site last year, said the proposed project “would be exactly the same but with no nursing component, so the rents would be less.”

The plans call for the construction of a two-story, 80-bed, apartment building attached to the school.

The school would be converted to feature a common area with cafeteria and beauty shop on the second floor and corporate offices and perhaps a private learning facility on the first.

The apartments would be home to “residents without significant medical needs,” he explained. All services would be provided, including meals and transportation to medical appointments and recreational trips. The lifestyle he envisions is one that “allows them to be cared for in a safe environment.”

“I’ve driven by the school my whole life,” Tosetto said. “And I’ve asked myself ‘Is this a viable project?’ ” He said a subsequent marketing study found such a project would be “not phenomenal” but possible.

The complex would have a low impact on local traffic but would be beneficial for economic development in the area as residents would frequent surrounding stores and businesses, he said. Eventually, he would like to see the facility be connected by a golf cart path to the community center used by senior citizens in Veterans Memorial Community Park, which is adjacent to the site.

The school was closed by the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District in the 1990s because it required massive renovations, including roof replacement and changes to the physical structure to accommodate state handicapped-access regulations. Instead of investing in the property, the district built West Street Elementary School.

According to the town Assessor’s Office, the owner of the property is listed as 4185 Military Road Inc., LLC. The building and 4.1-acre parcel are assessed at $100,000. The site is zoned for an apartment building but would need a variance for business operation, according to the discussion.

Tosetto told the board he doesn’t own the property yet and wanted to know from them if the town has any issues with his plans. He noted that he intends to keep the building looking exactly the same and that the new structure would have a residential appearance.

He asked the board for assistance in initiating action with the zoning and planning boards. If he can begin clean-up at the school over the winter and break ground in the spring, the facility could be opened in 9-10 months, he estimated. Asbestos abatement will be required, he said.

He added that although he has never dealt with the town industrial development agency, he would appreciate its help.

Supervisor Lee Wallace called the project “an absolute godsend for Military Road.”

“I’m 100 percent behind this,” he said. “That school has been vacant for more than 25 years.”

The councilmen who commented also gave their support.

Marc Carpenter said because of all the medical and health facilities on Military Road, it is “a perfect spot for that type of development.” The route has become a medical corridor in town with more than 20 health-related offices and businesses north of Packard Road.

Richard Sirianni agreed that the town “definitely needs something in that area.” Deputy Supervisor Charles Teixeira said “it would be nice to see a project there to take care of people.”

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