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Developer opens doors to old school

Jessie Schwartzberg talks to people about the plans for the Champlain Senior Housing Community while standing in the former, “Pit,” the old Willsboro Central School gymnasium.

Jessie Schwartzberg talks to people about the plans for the Champlain Senior Housing Community while standing in the former, “Pit,” the old Willsboro Central School gymnasium. Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— There are signs everywhere of the life that the large brick building in the center of Willsboro once had.

While developer Eli Schwartzberg gave people a chance to tour the site of the future Champlain Valley Senior Community on Oct. 1, those in attendance also saw the fading signs of the former home of Willsboro Central School.

Murals painted throughout the building were covered in order to be preserved, classrooms had reminders of those who had once learned there, and the scoreboard still hung in the walkway that fans used to look down from during basketball games in “the pit.”

Schwartzberg said that he hopes the project he is working on will be a marriage of the building’s past and present.

“We are not going to hide the fact that this used to be a school,” Schwartzberg told a group of people interested in the work being done. “We want to keep that character, and we want people to be able to come here and feel that part of the history of the building.”

“We want to preserve the walls and the murals that were created,” said Jesse Schwartzberg, Eli’s brother and one of the architects on the project. “We are turning a school into a living center, and they are different uses architecturally. I am really excited to get into the details.”

The Champlain Valley Senior Community will consist of room that ranges from 350 to 450 square feet, along with an activity center in the old gym and a “town center,” including a movie theater, snack bar, lounge and post office area.

“This project will allow seniors to play an active role in the town and to be an active part of the community,” Eli Schwartzberg said. “Our goal is to integrate people from Willsboro and the Adirondacks into this building.”

Schwartzberg said that the location of the building allows more access to the community than in other senior communities.

Schwartzberg added that the financing for the project is in place, along with a contribution from the Essex County Industrial Development Agency of a small loan. He added that he is still looking to raise a final $400,000 to go toward construction closing costs.

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