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Seneca Falls project will convert Huntington Building into apartments, about half earmarked for veterans

State and local officials broke ground Tuesday morning on a project that will convert the historic Huntington Building into apartments.

The ceremony at the site of the 1870s-era, three-story structure at 201 Fall St. celebrated the start of construction. Eventually, the building will be transformed into 53 affordable apartments, including 27 units for veterans in need of housing and support services.

Huntington Building Groundbreaking Ceremony

New York State Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez, Assistant Commissioner of the New York State Homes and Community Renewal Office Leona Skrill, town Supervisor Mike Ferrara, Seneca County Manager Mitch Rowe, and officials from the owner and developer, Home Leasing Inc. of Rochester, were on hand. The $24 million project is being funded by Home Leasing, the town of Seneca Falls through its Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, and the state Homes and Community Renewal Department.

The project is the culmination of an effort that began with the threat of the building’s demolition four years

The property was owned by Peter Koch, a longtime Seneca Falls resident who now lives in North Carolina. He operated an auto dealership at the site for many years before selling the business to James Provenzano. Provenzano leased the property from Koch. When Provenzano built a brand-new dealership on Route 414 in Tyre, the Fall Street building sat empty. Koch nearly sold it to the Circle K, the owner and operator of a gas station and convenience store on the property directly east of the Huntington Building. The company planned to demolish the Huntington Building and the existing adjacent facility to make way for a new, larger facility after combining the two lots into one.

An outcry from local preservationists, including the town Historic Preservation Commission, caused Koch to delay a final decision. He eventually founded a new buyer in Home Leasing, which agreed to explore breathing new life into the building.

The building was the original home of the National Yeast Co. It also has been home to the Seneca Falls Folding Box Co., Iroquois Motor Car Co., and auto dealerships, starting with Fred L. Huntington. Huntington sold the property to Koch in 1982.

What they’re saying

Here are what local and state officials are saying about the Huntington Building project, courtesy of a press release issued from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office:

• Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas: “The adaptive re-use of the Huntington Building will preserve a remarkable 19th century structure that has been a presence in the community for generations, while creating affordable apartments for 53 households, including 27 with supportive services for veterans. This community-oriented development is an example of Governor Hochul’s commitment to meeting the need for affordable homes across New York. We thank Home Leasing and our partners for their work in reaching this milestone.”

• Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez: “This Downtown Revitalization Initiative project is the perfect example of how historic buildings can be readapted to meet the changing needs of a community. We know that investing in affordable housing helps our downtown communities thrive, and once completed, Huntington Apartments will provide high-quality, energy-efficient affordable housing to Seneca Falls residents and help transform the town into a premiere destination for New Yorkers of all incomes and backgrounds to call home. The energy efficiency component is critical as the State leads the nation in fighting climate change and the Downtown Revitalization Initiative supports climate-friendly projects.”

• Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight: “Through the Governor’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative and constructive multi-agency collaboration, downtowns across New York State are truly becoming the thriving, connected hubs and hearts of their communities. Transforming this beautiful landmark building into affordable housing will help to move Seneca Falls closer to its vision of a walkable downtown where people want to live, work and play.”

• Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Daniel W. Tietz: “Under Governor Hochul’s leadership, New York State is focused on greatly increasing the supply of supportive and affordable housing through the state. Huntington Apartments will provide supportive housing for veterans experiencing homelessness, enabling them to have a safe, affordable place to live where they can easily access services and remain stably housed.”

• New York State Energy Research and Development Authority President and CEO Doreen M. Harris: “The Huntington Apartments project will give Seneca County residents access to new affordable housing that exemplifies the important role historic buildings can play in the clean-energy transition. By incorporating energy-efficient appliances and high-performance equipment and materials, this project will provide climate-friendly, comfortable living spaces along with critical services for vulnerable New Yorkers.”

• U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer: “Every Seneca Falls resident deserves access to safe affordable housing, and I am proud that the Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, that I fought hard to expand, has supplied the millions needed to begin construction on these dozens of new energy-efficient affordable homes for our veterans. Our veterans served our country and in return we must serve them. This will help ensure veterans in the Finger Lakes have access to the affordable homes they need and deserve. I applaud Gov. Hochul for moving forward on affordable housing, and will keep fighting to get every dollar of federal support needed to help our veteran communities across the Finger Lakes.”

• State Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-58 of Big Flats: “State investments in affordable and supportive housing in our communities, including for veterans in need, continue to strengthen the fabric of neighborhoods and the quality of life for tenants and residents in communities across this region and state. Huntington Apartments is an important commitment that will deliver affordable housing and other critical short- and long-term benefits to continue revitalizing and strengthening the Seneca Falls community.”

• Assemblyman Jeff Gallahan, R-131 of Manchester: “This is an exciting investment in the future of Seneca Falls. Downtowns are the heart of our communities, and the redevelopment of the Huntington Building will help support the continued growth and success of our downtown. HCR continues to play a critical role in facilitating economic growth through the development of safe and affordable housing across our region.”

• Seneca Falls Town Supervisor Michael Ferrara: “On behalf of the Town Board and the citizens of Seneca Falls, we are very excited about this project. We want to welcome Home Leasing to our community and look forward to September 2024 when new, energy efficient, affordable housing will be available for our community and our veterans. I would also like to thank the Koch family for their patience and decades of service to Seneca Falls.”

• CEO of Home Leasing Bret Garwood: “Home Leasing is proud to help preserve the Huntington Building and bring much needed affordable housing to Seneca Falls. We are thankful for all our partners and the community for working together to save this important historic building.”

• Assistant Vice President & Mortgage Officer at The Community Preservation Corp. Miriam Zinter: “An affordable, supportive place to call home can be one of the most effective pathways to help bring stability and opportunity back to peoples’ lives. The Huntington Apartments speaks to CPC’s mission of investing in projects that breathe new life into our historic buildings, transforming them into resources that will serve the unique housing needs of our communities for years to come. My thanks to long-time partner Home Leasing, to all of our state partners, and to Governor Hochul for her dedication to making New York more affordable and equitable for everyone.”

This article by David Shaw originally appeared in the Finger Lakes Times.


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