Malorie Lebeau 07/11/2022

By John Cropley | 

The former Elmer Avenue School at Elmer and Eastern avenues.


The former Elmer Avenue School at Elmer and Eastern avenues.

SCHENECTADY — With the last piece of the puzzle in place, conversion of the former Elmer Avenue School into housing for older adults is expected to begin this coming winter.

The state of New York on Wednesday announced a $6 million affordable housing grant for Elmer Gardens, which is more than a quarter of its $22.7 million anticipated price tag.

The developers are Home Leasing and Better Community Neighborhoods, Inc., which also collaborated on the conversion of the former St. Mary’s Catholic school a few blocks down Eastern Avenue and on other projects in the Eastern Avenue corridor.


“For all intents and purposes, it’s ‘go’ for the development,” said Jennica Huff, CEO of BCNI.

The project was essentially on hold until money was secured to pay for it — the partners were committed to it, had drawn up a plan and had received all necessary municipal and voter approvals to undertake it.

It also received commitments for grants of $236,000 from the city and $200,000 from the county. It will benefit from historic tax credits, since it is on the state and national registers of historic places.

The project calls for 51 apartments for people ages 55 and older in the former Elmer Avenue school, which was built in 1905 and expanded in 1968. It totals 54,136 square feet and has been unused since the Schenectady City School District reorganized its schools and their attendance zones in 2017. Voters have approved its sale for $450,000.

Rents haven’t been determined, Huff said, but Elmer Gardens will be “housing that is affordable to a range of low- and moderate-income households. For our seniors, that’s pretty imperative as inflation goes up.”

Twenty-six of the apartments will be reserved for residents in need of supportive services to live independently, but the entire building is intended to be supportive to some degree, Huff said, in that it will provide opportunities for residents to be involved with their neighbors and community, rather than drifting into isolation and inactivity.

Closing is anticipated in November. Huff couldn’t give an exact estimate on when the conversion would begin after the closing.

Elmer Gardens is part of a larger initiative, Huff said, that is “drawing downtown investment up through strategic corridors.”

Eastern Avenue is one of these corridors the city and its partner agencies have been concentrating on, with hope that the redevelopment projects and blight removal will spur greater interest and investment.

Huff said BCNI offers down payment assistance and help with renovating owner-occupied housing anywhere in the city, but makes a specific effort to promote these and other forms of assistance in the strategic corridors.

On Eastern Avenue, this potentially aids the area around the old St. Mary’s School, now part of Renaissance Square, and around Elmer Gardens, she added.

In a prepared statement, Schenectady County Legislature Majority Leader Gary Hughes said: 

“Governor Hochul’s announcement today that Schenectady County will receive one of 16 statewide housing awards culminates a multiyear effort by our unified economic development team to restore the historic Elmer Avenue School netting city taxpayers $450,000 from the sale of the building, bringing a $22 million construction project to Schenectady County that will further boost the Eastern Avenue neighborhood, and creating high-quality yet affordable housing for seniors. We thank Home Leasing and BCNI, our partners at the city, and the entire team that has worked together to bring yet another positive development to our community.”

The grants announced Wednesday by Gov. Hochul total $104 million and will create 864 affordable housing units.

The only other Capital Region grant announced Wednesday is $7.3 million for the Riverview Apartments, a 60-unit affordable project to be built in Corinth by Rise Housing and Support Services and Hudson River Community Credit Union.

Thirty of those apartments will be affordable housing for the general public and 30 will be supportive housing for those who have mental health concerns, are homeless, or are at risk of becoming homeless.