Malorie Lebeau 07/02/2020

Huntington project gets ZBA OK to housing conversion


SENECA FALLS — The delayed plan to convert the vacant Huntington Building into housing units can move forward.

The town’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted last week to approve a special use permit for Home Leasing Inc. of Rochester, allowing it to convert a commercial building to housing. The decision came less than a month after the ZBA voted 3-2 against issuing the permit due to concerns about the density of units and other issues.

At the time, the ZBA said Home Leasing officials could return with a revised application for the permit. Home Leasing CEO Bret Garwood vowed to do just that, and submitted additional information and some proposed changes to the project, asking for reconsideration of the special use permit.

“The information included more details showing a minor traffic impact and examples of housing we have built in other places that show its high quality,” Garwood said Monday. “We also made some design changes, including a reduction in the total number of units from 55 to 53 through a reduction of 12 studio apartments and an increase of 10 one-bedroom apartments, dramatically reducing the number of the smallest units.”

With ZBA approval in tow, Garwood said the company plans to apply for funding through the state Office of Housing and Community Renewal this summer. In a best-case scenario, he said funding would be approved in a timely manner and construction would begin in early 2021.

Home Leasing has an agreement to buy the 1870s-era, three-story brick building at 201 Fall St. from owner Peter Koch. The company plans to renovate and preserve the building, converting it into apartments of varying sizes, with parking. Some of the housing units will be for veterans.

The town’s Planning Board and Historic Preservation Commission had signed off on the site plan. The ZBA initially approved a parking variance and height variance, but balked at the special use permit.

The building has housed a variety of manufacturing uses since 1870. Most recently, it served as an automobile dealership until the last tenant, Finger Lakes Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, moved into new facilities in Tyre.

Koch originally considered selling the property to Circle K, an Ohio-based company that said it would demolish the building to make room for a new gas station and convenience store. Koch delayed the sale to see if a buyer interested in preserving the building would surface.