Former high school sold

WILLSBORO For decades, the old Willsboro High School was central in the lives of the communitys young people. It may now serve as a home for them in their latter years. After sitting abandoned for more than seven years, the 80-year-old building was finally purchased on Sept. 25 by Stonebrook Properties. Eli Schwartzberg, head of the firm, intends to convert the former school into an assisted living home. The town wanted to sell it, but they havent been able to, explained Schwartzberg. Numerous developers had passed on offers for the deteriorating building. Schwartzberg became intrigued by the project, though, and began the process of acquiring the property about a year ago. After having the building thoroughly inspected and drawing up a plan of action, Schwartzbergs plans for a 57-unit senior housing facility were approved and he agreed to purchase the building for a nominal price. Seniors want to live near their family, said Schwartzberg, seeing a need for more assisted living homes in the Willsboro area. The proposed retirement home will include single- and double-occupancy rooms, a community dining hall serving three meals a day, and possibly a fitness center and indoor walking track. Many of the rooms feature scenic views of the Boquet river. According to Schwartzberg, had a developer not taken on the project, school officials would have had to eventually spend about $900,000 just to tear the building down. Renovating the old school will put the property back on the tax rolls, revitalize the downtown area, and create 25 full-time jobs, he said. We are very excited for our school district as well as our school-community that Mr. Schwartzberg has committed to this project, said Willsboro school superintendent Steve Broadwell. It will be great to see the old school building that served thousands of our children begin serving our adult community. Long Road Ahead An Adirondack native from Saranac Lake, Schwartzberg is a graduate of Cornell University with a background in real estate development. Though he has been involved with large projects before as part of other firms, he admits this is one of the largest projects hes led. You never know what youre going to run into with an older building like this, said Schwartzberg, noting the challenge of designing within an existing framework. Still, hes impressed with all the attention to detail in the original construction, including the artistic facade, thick walls, and natural wood doors. Work on the project has already begun as crews installed a new roof membrane to seal up leaks. A broken pipe causing leaks in the old gymnasium have also been repaired. If all goes well, Schwartzberg expects the facility to be operational as early as summer of 2011. School Spirit The development will be called the Historic Willsboro School, said Schwartzberg who, as much as possible, wants to preserve the original atmosphere of the school by displaying school memorabilia and keeping some of the murals on the walls. Since he expects many future residents to be former graduates of the school, he hopes the unique approach will give them a constant reminder of their school days. Its interesting; it makes it more meaningful that way, he said. Though he hopes to keep many original aspects of the building, Schwartzberg stressed that, its still going to be as nice, if not better than any senior facility in the North Country. I want people to feel that this is still the communitys building, said Schwartzberg. Other possible amenities, such as a hair salon, will cater not just to seniors and encourage others in the town to interact more with residents. This building is real important in the town, Schwartzberg said. There are a lot of memories here."

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