A shuttered Cayuga County school could house older residents and people with developmental and intellectual disabilities if a purchase offer is accepted by the Union Springs Central School District.
E. John Gavras Center in Auburn submitted an offer of $350,000 to buy Cayuga Elementary School, which closed at the end of the 2018-19 school year, in the village of Cayuga.
The district announced the purchase offer in a post on its website. The potential sale of the building will be considered at the Union Springs school board meeting Monday.
The Gavras Center plans to renovate the school to address "a lack of safe, affordable, integrated housing in the community," said James Breslin, the center's chief operations officer. Once the project is completed, the school would have 50 apartments — 45 one-bedroom and five two-bedroom units.
Fifteen of the apartments would be reserved for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities who can live independently. The remaining 35 apartments would be available for people ages 55 and up.
Breslin said the Gavras Center has been exploring ways to develop housing and it piqued their interest when the district put Cayuga Elementary up for sale.
After a tour of the school, Gavras Center officials met with Union Springs Superintendent Jarett Powers and spoke with Beardsley Architects and Engineers, which provided some drawings for how the apartments could be laid out in the shuttered school.
The plan would address two needs. Gavras Center does have limited housing for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, but Breslin said those units are for people who require assistance. There's a lack of housing options available for individuals who have developmental and intellectual disabilities and can live independently.
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But Gavras also wanted to help a growing number of older citizens who are unable to find affordable housing. Breslin noted there are apartment buildings with waiting lists, including a complex in the village of Cayuga with a waiting list of about 20 people.
"We're hoping maybe some folks in the 55 and older range will decide to move into the apartments," Breslin said.
The project is in its infancy. If the sale is approved, Gavras would close in mid-March. Officials at the center plan to meet with Cayuga Mayor William Sherman to discuss the project. Gavras is committed to following the village's planning and zoning process, Breslin said.
Gavras is also planning outreach to village businesses and residents.
"We want the folks in the village to know that we're going to be good neighbors," Breslin said.
The "placeholder name" of the project, according to Breslin, is Lakeview Possibilities. He acknowledged that it will take the Gavras Center time to secure the funds needed for the renovation. He estimated that total to be in the $3.5 to $4 million range.
Breslin projected that the apartments would be open for tenants by December 2021.
While the use of the building will change, some of the features will remain. Breslin said Gavras will "keep as much of the original stuff as we can." The Union Springs school district has been keeping the heat on in the building and using it for storage.
Between the parts of the school they plan to keep and the condition of the building, Breslin believes it's going to save Gavras millions of dollars.
"We're excited about the possibilities with this housing project," he said.
Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.