City of Trenton Could Sell 109-Year-Old Former School to Developer

Cook Elementary School 40 Cuyler Avenue Trenton
Site of possible development: William G. Cook Elementary School, 40 Cuyler Avenue, Trenton. Photo via Google Maps/Street View.

The words “William G. Cook School” can still be read on the facade of the building at 40 Cuyler Avenue in Trenton, but a class has not been held in the former schoolhouse that rises over the capital city’s Wilbur Section in over two decades. Now, changes could be coming to the aging structure.

During its meeting today, April 18, at 5:30 p.m., the Trenton City Council is expected to vote on an ordinance that calls for selling the former Cook Elementary School to a company called KCG Development. The building, which is currently owned by the City of Trenton, has fallen into disrepair over the last decade, with a boarded-up front door along with broken and missing windows easily visible from the residential neighborhood that surrounds the property. Footage from a drone that was posted online shows that parts of the building’s roof are damaged as well.

Built back in 1910, the school closed over 40 years ago, according to The Times of Trenton. In subsequent years, Trenton Public Schools operated offices and an alternative school inside before the building deteriorated into its current condition.

Last year, Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora posted on Facebook that he toured the property with potential redevelopers.

“We are starting to market off our abandoned historic buildings to repurpose for the 21st century,” wrote Gusciora at the time, adding that “it would be a boon to Trenton to return this marvelous architecture to the tax rolls.”

A public notice shows that the ordinance was introduced and passed by the Trenton City Council on first reading during its meeting on April 4. It is not yet clear how much the property could be sold for nor is it evident exactly what KCG Development is or what they are planning to do with the structure. However, an Indianapolis-based firm with the same name that is a subsidiary of the KCG Companies is responsible for the adaptive reuse of several buildings into apartments, including The Lofts at Globe Mill in a former Utica, New York, industrial complex, the AP Lofts at Larkinville in an old Buffalo, New York, A&P warehouse, and the Exchange @ 104 in a Fond du Lac, Wisconsin building that used to contain a bank. The Buffalo News reported that the AP Lofts at Larkinville complex consists of “147 affordable apartments.”

Calls left yesterday by Jersey Digs seeking additional information from a City Hall spokesperson and KCG Development’s Indianapolis office have not yet been returned.

Update (1:15pm): In an interview early this afternoon with Jersey Digs, Joel Silver, KCG’s Vice President of Development, stated that the company is planning to turn the former Cook Elementary School into 29 one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom mixed-income apartments. The adaptive reuse project would include a community room and a fitness center as well. The preliminary plan calls for the pricing of the “affordable” units in the development to range from $750 to $1,300 per month while the “market-rate” apartments would cost between $900 to $1,600 per month.

Should the City Council approve the sale, KCG is planning to apply in September for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. If the credits are awarded, construction could begin in 2020 and be completed during the following year. The company is also hoping that the state will adopt historic tax credits so that they could use them for the adaptive reuse. Silver declined to state how much the development firm is planning to pay City Hall for the former schoolhouse.

The proposed redevelopment of the Cook School is part of a larger project by KCG that also involves the construction of a new 28-unit building called the Clinton Lofts. The structure would be built in conjunction with the DeRosa Group and DRM Trenton LP over a mile away at the site of a vacant lot at the corner of South Clinton and Hamilton Avenues.

Note to readers: The dates that applications are scheduled to be heard by the Trenton City Council and other governing bodies are subject to change.


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