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Rochester developer gets OK to convert former School 78 into affordable housing

A suburban Rochester nonprofit that serves people with intellectual and development disabilities received city approval Monday for its plan to convert a former East Side school into 47 units of affordable housing.

CDS Monarch of Webster is working with Western New York Independent Living to renovate the three-story former School 78 into 45 one- and two-bedroom apartments, aimed at low-income tenants. A portion of the units will be set aside for individuals with developmental or physical disabilities.

The developer was selected by the city after beating out four other proposals.

The brick building will also include offices for both CDS and WNY Independent Living, which will provide programs and services for residents. The $16.3 million project will feature a community room, a computer room, an exercise room and tenant storage areas, according to the Common Council. An outdoor playground and a barbecue area are also planned.

“There have been very few affordable housing projects built in this area in the last decade, and we have heard from numerous neighbors and supporters that this is a needed opportunity for this community," said Mark Curletta, chief operating officer for CDS Life Transitions, the parent of CDS Housing and CDS Monarch.

Built in 1927 at 321 Olympic Ave., at Cloverdale Avenue next to the Kensington Expressway, the 81,563-square-foot building most recently housed a Montessori school program before it closed.

As part of the project, crews will rehab windows, clean bricks and refinish doors, but otherwise the exterior, including a smokestack, will remain the same, officials said.

A few local residents expressed some concern about parking and water pressure in the neighborhood, but both the developer and Planning Board members noted that usage will be less than when the building was a school.

"It’s nice to see another vacant building in the heart of a neighborhood being reused for residential," said Planning Board Vice Chair Cynthia Schwartz.

The project cost – which includes the purchase of the building for at least $450,000, based on an appraisal – will be funded by state and federal dollars for which CDS will apply. That could include capital funding from the state Office of Housing and Community Renewal, low-income housing tax credits, federal and state historic tax credits, New York State Housing Trust Funds and permanent financing from the  State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

The developer also will seek property tax breaks from the city.

CDS also agreed to secure the financing by May 2019, close by September 2019, and complete construction by the end of December 2020, according to the resolution. And it agreed to pursue the city's standard goals of participation by minorities and women in the project.

Construction is expected to take about 12 months, according to the application.

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