GLENFIELD — About a dozen people gathered in the Glenfield Elementary gymnasium Monday night to explore possible uses for the building.
In March, the Lewis County Planning and Community Development Department was awarded funding through the New York Main Street Grant to complete a Reuse Study and Market Analysis in preparation of the Glenfield Elementary building’s decommissioning set for September.
The South Lewis Central School District Board of Education has accepted a purchase offer. The prospective owner plans to use the facility primarily as an Information Technology training center but intends to utilize a portion of the 45,000-square-foot building for other uses.
Lewis County and the purchaser will use the information from the Reuse Plan and Market Analysis along with the results from the October 2020 community surveys to aid in formation of a plan for the building.
The kindergarten through fourth-grade primary school at 5960 Main St., is set to close in October and a purchase offer has been accepted from Shamsul Alam.
Michael N’Dolo, director of economic development services for the MRB Group, and Nicole T. Allen, AICP director of planning & community development for the Laberge Group, gave an overview of their companies’ findings concerning the site condition, market analysis, case studies and previous public input on Monday.
According to current zoning laws in the hamlet, the site could be used for agriculture, commercial enterprises including retail, office space, manufacturing or hotel, dwellings, motor vehicle repair, gas station or public and semi-public facilities such as a school, church, library or community center.
However, under the current zoning laws, it could not be used for active recreation — “Any form of recreation requiring significant levels of organization, buildings or large numbers of persons.” It could also not be used as a campground, junkyard, mobile home or travel trailer park.
Mr. N’Dolo pointed out the zoning laws were unclear whether multiple acceptable reuses could be utilized on the same property.
The school was built in stages with the oldest section being a two-story structure constructed in 1931. One-story additions were made in 1979 and 1995. Mr. N’Dolo noted “substantial updates” were made in 2011 including the installation of a backup generator. In order to maintain the building as an elementary school, several costly improvements would have been needed, some of which the new owner will also have to address. Upgrades to the structure’s heating and air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems are proposed.
The consultants based their market analysis on the area’s demographics, economics, retail and real estate trends.
The analysis pointed toward a possible reuse for hospitality. Members of the audience at the presentation confirmed that during peak tourist times, local lodging was difficult to find.
Mr. N’Dolo said that the prospective owners of the Port Leyden Elementary, which is also slated to close in October, plan to utilize half of the building for senior housing and the remainder for a mix of uses.
He pointed out that although a number of former schools have made the conversion to hotels or housing units, there are also a number of still vacant buildings. One success story is Tailwater Lodge in Albion which originally converted the school into 42 hotel rooms and since has expanded to 88. A biomedical research and manufacturing facility in Parish was also once an education facility. The former Constableville school is now a single family home which also serves as a bed and breakfast.
Ms. Allen shared that most people responding to a public survey in October 2020 thought the reuse of the elementary buildings should contribute to new property tax revenues and maintain the revenue for the municipal sewer and water system as not to increase user rate. A majority of the 503 respondents felt the new business ventures should provide a boost for other local businesses and provide new jobs for the community. Of those responding, 274 were from the Glenfield community and 229 from Port Leyden. Possible reuse suggestions for the buildings included child care, senior housing, community center, recreation, youth center, county office, college and affordable housing. The full survey findings are available online at www.LabergeGroup.com/GlenfieldElementary.
During the workshop, Douglas Dietrich, Glenfield resident and owner of Golden Shamrock Bed and Breakfast, stated that there was “a definite need for a restaurant” in the area and voiced concerns about the school’s playground equipment.
“It’s the only playground the hamlet has,” he said. “They could exclude it and give it to the town of Martinsburg where people in Glenfield have a place to play.”
Realtor Britton Abbey said there had been a discussion about the playground and that the owner wanted to keep it. However, there is still a possibility that an agreement for public use could be established.
Town Supervisor Terry Thisse expressed the town would be agreeable to such an arrangement.
Members of the audience also discussed the future of the playing fields which the South Lewis School District uses for soccer practice. It was pointed out that from a business point of view the 6.9 acres, which are in close proximity to the snowmobile and ATV trails and the Black River, would be an asset for any future hospitality related use of the building.
Child care was also mentioned as a possible reuse of the school.
Katie Malinowski, Tug Hill Commission executive director, pointed out there is a lot of support from the state for child care.
“Daycare is needed to help get people back to work,” she said.
Further comments concerning the reuse of the reuse of the elementary buildings can be made by contacting Mr. N’Dolo, MRB Group email@example.com, 518-301-5428 or Nicole Allen, Laberge Group firstname.lastname@example.org, 518-458-7112.
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