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Closed North Tonawanda school slated for apartment redevelopment

The long-vacant former Col. Payne Elementary School in North Tonawanda is slated for redevelopment into 37 market-rate apartments.

The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency will consider an application Wednesday from the prospective owners, architect David Sutton of Sutton Architecture in Williamsville and David Cloy, president of DWC Mechanical of Amherst.

They're seeking a 15-year-old property tax break and exemptions from paying mortgage recording tax and sales tax on building materials and furnishings.

The building at 460 Wheatfield St. has been vacant for more than a decade.

"The building structurally is pretty good. The outside appearance is looking pretty bad," said Mayor Arthur G. Pappas, also an IDA board member.

"The building's fallen into disrepair and it's an eyesore in the neighborhood," Pappas said. "It's right in the middle of a nice residential neighborhood, so anything that can be done, I'm sure will be appreciated by the neighborhood."

Built as an elementary school in the late 1940s, the structure was closed by the Board of Education because of declining enrollment and turned over to the City of North Tonawanda in 1987. The city renamed the site the Col. Payne Community Center.

For nearly 20 years, the city's Youth and Recreation Department had its headquarters there, and also leased space to not-for-profit and educational agencies, including the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services, the Niagara Community Action Program and Niagara County Head Start.

But maintenance costs got to be too much, and the city auctioned the building in 2006. Michael Wachowicz, a North Tonawanda developer, won the auction and paid the city $109,900 for the site, according to the deed.

Wachowicz announced a plan for condominiums, which never came to fruition. In September 2016, he sold the building to Cambria-based Wheatfield Street LLC for $125,000, according to Niagara County land records.

According to their IDA application, Cloy and Sutton plan to acquire the property for $350,000 as part of a $3.7 million redevelopment plan.

The IDA staff calculated that the incentives would save them $494,000 over 15 years. Only one part-time job would be created.

A public hearing would be needed before the NCIDA board can vote on the project, likely on May 9.


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