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Price tag skyrockets for repairs to Glen Cove's Coles School

Glen Cove Deputy Mayor Barbara Peebles seen in

Glen Cove Deputy Mayor Barbara Peebles seen in front of the former Coles Elementary School in Glen Cove on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. A decision is expected soon on whether to reuse or tear down the shuttered school. Credit: Steven Sunshine

Glen Cove's hopes of saving the 84-year-old Coles School have hit a potentially fatal stumbling block -- an estimated $9.4 million renovation and repair cost that is more than double previous projections.

The city has been exploring selling at least half of the 4-acre school property for development and keeping the half that includes the neoclassical-style building, which housed a public elementary school from 1931 until 1992. The city purchased it from the Glen Cove City School District in 2002 and leased it to a Jewish school until 2011.

Syosset-based LiRo Engineers Inc. recently released a study detailing the school's deterioration.

The 25,000-square-foot building needs new electrical, ventilation, hot-water, plumbing and sprinkler systems, and must be made accessible to people with disabilities, the report said.

The $9.4 million price tag was unexpected, city officials said.

"It floored me, to be honest," Councilman Joseph Capobianco said. "That's an astronomical cost. I don't think we're in any financial position to handle that rehab."

The city last year received nine development proposals for the site. Deputy Mayor Barbara Peebles said that in recent months, the city has focused on two:

A proposal by Virginia-based Artis Senior Living to build a 72-bed "memory care" facility for people with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia; and one by Great Neck-based Namdar Group to construct two four-floor buildings with 120 apartments, along with four duplexes.

Both developments would be on at least 2 acres next to the school. The land includes a separate building housing a sports academy that may be torn down.

Before the report was released, Namdar had offered to pay the entire price of school renovations for the city, Peebles said. Artis proposed to pay a fraction of that, she said.

There have been no discussions with the companies about the higher renovation costs, Peebles said.

Effy Namdar, a partner in Namdar Group, could not be reached for comment.

Michael Stanco, a Locust Valley real estate agent representing Artis, said: "No one's going to pay $9 million to put into this building."

Mayor Reginald Spinello said he expected council members to discuss Coles at the Aug. 18 pre-council meeting.

Before deciding whether the city should seek to preserve the school, the council must decide how the building would be used, said Spinello, who attended Coles as a child.

Councilman Anthony Gallo, who is challenging Spinello in the Sept. 10 Republican primary and also went to Coles, envisions a cultural center, theater or other public use.

"Regardless of the cost, my expectation is to keep the Coles School as a city asset," he said. "That includes the Coles School facility and the grounds surrounding the Coles School."

Gallo said he supports creating a nonprofit organization to raise money for renovations.

Councilwoman Pamela Panzenbeck said she understands the emotional attachment to the building.

But the $9.4 million cost "is a total game-changer. I would love to save the building," Panzenbeck said. "I'm not sure if it's doable."


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