When the Rosendale Town Board passed a new local law at the end of last year allowing the creation of Economic Enterprise Overlay (EEO) zones, one of the examples most frequently cited of a long-vacant building in need of a change in zoning in order to be redeveloped was the former Tillson School, located at 56 Grist Mill Road. Now the purchasers of that building, George and Stacy Fakiris, have come before the Town Board at its June 3 meeting to present the first architectural drawings of the adaptive reuse that they have planned for it: a 60-unit apartment complex that will put the new EEO process to the test.
Incorporated under the name the Apollon Group, LLC, the Fakirises are real estate developers formerly based in New York City, where they owned about 1,800 units, before recently relocating to High Falls. “We’ve been direct managing for 35 years. That’s all we do,” said Stacy. “We specialize in apartment rehab…Because we moved here, we’re in the process of selling our portfolio and concentrating on where we live.”
Accompanying the couple at the meeting were their local attorney, Mike Moriello, and Brandan Bachor of New Paltz-based Alfandre Architecture, the firm that is doing the design for the redevelopment plan. The presentation at this stage is “only conceptual,” according to Moriello. “There’s no site plan yet.” He noted that an application for rezoning under the new EEO structure would be submitted once the plans had been presented to the Rosendale Planning Board and the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) conducted.
Bachor displayed color renderings of the preliminary designs worked up by Alfandre. Two long two-story wings, one brick-faced and one with clapboard siding, flank a slightly taller central section that once housed the Tillson School gymnasium. The existing wings are only one story high at present, Bachor explained; but the intent is to fit more units into the existing building footprint by raising the roofline. “Being able to raise the wings will give a more residential look to this building,” he said. The engineering firm Brinnier & Larios has been retained to determine such questions as whether the building’s existing footings can support the additional load of a taller structure.
Noting that the existing one-story wings “now look more chicken-coop level,” councilwoman Jen Metzger expressed her approval of the expansion concept: “Environmentally, the preference is to go up rather than out.” Councilman Bob Ryan, who lives in the same neighborhood as the former school, also seemed to like what he saw in the concept design: “I’ve had to look at this for 52 years,” he said. “The building has not always been taken care of.”
Bachor explained that the planned change in height would increase the potential number of apartment units from 35 to 60, which would be either one- or two-bedroom in a “30/70 or 40/60 [percent] mix.” Each would have its own private entrance. Noting that the brick-faced masonry building was structurally sound, with no problem of “failing materials” like rotting wood, he said, “We plan to use as much of the existing materials as possible.” While the Fakirises are not shooting for a level of “green building” that would qualify for LEED certification, Bachor that the redesign would incorporate high-efficiency windows, reflective white roofs to reduce the need for air conditioning, improved insulation and water-conserving bath and kitchen fixtures. Moriello noted that modifications would need to be made to the building’s existing septic system to accommodate more intensive use.
The 8.4-acre parcel offers “a lot of space” for on-site parking, traffic ingress and egress, Bachor noted. Stacy Fakiris said that they planned to improve the site with such amenities as a ballfield, playground, basketball court and park benches, though the landscaping is not shown in the architecture firm’s preliminary visuals.
“These are not going to be luxury apartments. The rents are going to be something two people could easily afford,” Stacy added, citing a price range of $900 to $1,250 as the “going rate” for comparable apartments in the area. Councilwoman Metzger said, “I would like to see consideration for some percentage of the units to be more affordable, or senior citizen housing,” but the Fakirises refused to commit to such a provision, saying that they set high standards for their tenants’ creditworthiness and references. “I think these are very fair rents,” said town supervisor Jeanne Walsh, noting that they were considerably “lower than the market rate we talked about in our last project,” presumably referring to the Williams Lake redevelopment.
Town attorney Mary Lou Christiana said that the applicants would “have to ask in writing for the second story” and undergo a SEQR review. She recommended that their next step be to present the concept to the Planning Board at its next meeting, “in case they have concerns.”