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Developer halts plans for Silver Creek site

Former school at 60 Main St., Silver Creek.

SILVER CREEK – At a community meeting at the Silver Creek Senior Center in November 2021, a presentation by Region Nine Housing Corp. – based out of New Jersey – brought a glimmer of hope for an eyesore that has frustrated elected officials and village residents for decades. That developer’s presentation offered a glimpse into the potential transformation of the old Silver Creek school into 47 units of affordable senior housing.

Earlier this month, however, that same agency announced to town, village, county and state representatives that it will not be moving forward with the $24 million renovation project. That decision was made public Wednesday by the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency in a news release.

“As someone who has championed the transformation of the old Silver Creek School into affordable senior housing for more than a decade, I am disappointed at this turn of events, said state Sen. George Borrello. “However, I fully understand why the growing costs to renovate this deteriorated building ultimately made the project financially unworkable for Region Nine.”

Now, the search is on for another developer as the nearly $6 million in funding – from both the Housing and Urban Development and $1 million obtained by the village through Restore New York from Empire State Development — remains tied to the effort.

“We will continue to do everything in our power, including offering technical assistance and incentives, to find another developer who can bring this project, or some form of this project, to fruition,” said Mark Geise, chief executive officer of the Chautauqua County IDA. “I can’t say enough about the collaborative effort that was involved in this project, and how grateful I am to everyone that has been involved with it. … I am still hopeful that we can find a developer to step in and make the project a reality, whether it is a renovation project or a demo/new-build project. We will keep working on it.”

Part of the reason for Region Nine backing out, according to Mark Comroe, is the company is ceasing its involvement in pursuing all low-income housing tax credit development.

“We are very disappointed that we will not be moving ahead with this project. We have put our hearts and souls into this and were very committed to seeing it to fruition,” said Comroe, director of development. “Unfortunately, despite our commitment as a non-profit to take no development fees or money from the project, the dramatically increased renovation costs have made the building and maintenance of this project untenable. Available grants, tax credits, and tax credit rental limits combined could not meet the costs associated with converting this historic school building into affordable homes for seniors. Everyone, including the local community, the county, the state, and the CCIDA, has been terrific to work with, and we hope that eventually this project will come to fruition.”

Closed for decades, the school on Main Street has been deteriorating for years. The nearly 100-year old structure is 57,000 square feet that, for now, remains an albatross to village officials.

“We have put a lot of time and effort into providing Region Nine what they needed from a local level to make this project a reality, including discussions related to rates and fees within the village; however, at the end of the day Region Nine just can’t make the project work,” lamented Jeffrey Hornburg, Silver Creek mayor.

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