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Niagara City Lofts opens in former South Junior High School

The former hallways of a Niagara Falls middle school are about to welcome new footsteps. But this time, they're residents, not students.

Developer CB Emmanuel Realty celebrated the grand opening of its new Niagara City Lofts project Friday, marking the culmination of a $24.4 million redevelopment of the former South Junior High School into workforce housing.

Opened in 1923 to accommodate a growing student body, the 119,000-square-foot school was vacant for more than a decade after the population declined and was slated for a $1.2 million taxpayer-funded demolition before CB Emmanuel came along several years ago with its proposal. Construction began in April 2016.

The renovated historic building at 561 Portage Road features 61 rental apartments, a community room with a computer lab, common laundry area, a fitness room, bike and tenant storage, parking, a public playground and 19,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space.

The residential space features a mix of 49 one-bedroom, 10 two-bedroom and two studio loft apartments, with 51 designated for households with incomes at or below 60 percent of the area median income and 10 available for market-rate rents. Additionally, 10 apartments are accessible or adaptable for those with physical disabilities, while three are for people with a hearing or visual impairment. Monthly rents will range from $475 to $831. It's overseen by CRM Rental Management.

The commercial space, which will be finished in November, will include Miss Tammi's Dance Studio, a storage facility for public rentals, and a restored auditorium available for community meetings, events and the dance studio. There's still another 1,000 square feet of available space.

The project was funded with $5 million from Empire State Development Corp.'s Restore-NY grant program, $6.4 million in low-income housing tax credits and other financing from New York State Homes and Community Renewal, $7 million in federal and state historic tax credits, $123,000 from NYSERDA, and property tax breaks from the city.

"CB Emmanuel is proud to have been given the opportunity to return this community asset back to the City of Niagara Falls," said CB Emmanuel Principal Benathan Upshaw. "Niagara City Lofts demonstrates the importance of public-private partnerships in revitalizing neighborhoods."

The developer will hold an open house for the local community on Oct. 14, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

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