By ALVIN REINER
---- — WILLSBORO — When developer Eli Schwartzberg first saw the old Willsboro School building, he recognized a diamond in the rough.
The towering structure, which he refurbished, is ready to open as Champlain Valley Senior Community, an assisted-living facility.
“It’s great to see what a difference this will make in people’s lives,” Schwartzberg said.
“I had a vision the first day I saw it, but it took a lot of energy and hard work to make others understand the vision. One by one, people began to see what this building could become.”
PAST, FUTURE MEET
As people enter the front enclosure, they are taken back into time because as much of the original structure as possible was preserved.
Old woodwork, though refinished, still shows the imprints of former hardware in the 1927 structure.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” Schwartzberg said, as the development has infused state-of the-art services and technology into the shell of an existing landmark.
For example, many of the old wooden classroom doors have been left in place, but they are now backed with fire-retardant walls.
The 14-foot-high ceilings and classroom-size windows in their original green-colored frames create a bright, airy atmosphere.
There are some added touches of the past, such as the vintage Hershey’s ice-cream freezer.
Perhaps the most striking area is the dining hall/stage area, previously known as “The Pit,” where countless basketball games and school presentations were held.
Although a leaky roof ruined much of the old wood floor before Schwartzberg’s acquisition of the building, salvageable sections have been placed in several areas. The still functional old scoreboard is mounted from the balcony, and the folding wood bleachers are available for extra seating.
AGE IN PLACE
The property, which includes the 42,000-square-foot building and 9 acres of land in two parcels, is located on School Street, which borders the Boquet River.
Schwartzberg said about 25 percent of the 63 rooms of the assisted-living facility are booked so far.
Since different degrees of assisted living are offered within the facility, he said, residents can “age in place.
“Just seeing the people come in and pick out a room means a lot to me,” he said. “This is no longer just an old building. To have a product that people can actually use brings me a lot of satisfaction.”
Champlain Valley Senior Community has around-the-clock nursing, which allows for the management of medications. In addition, the facility has a full-time case manager/social worker.
The wing for dementia-related infirmities includes a contained outdoor area.
A room is set aside for medical treatment, and Schwartzberg plans to have regularly scheduled visits by medical specialists.
Among the other features are a kitchen with cafeteria, beauty salon, craft room, chapel, library and recreational facilities.
About 80 percent of the rooms offer a view of the Boquet River.
The common area has a fireplace and couches.
A walking path connects Champlain Valley Senior Community building to the center of Willsboro, and Schwartzberg feels the facility will create an “intergenerational mingling between residents and people in the community.”
Cost for a private suite runs between $2,500 and $3,400 per month; $1,700 to $2,000 for double occupancy.
A private facility, the Senior Community does not accept Medicaid.
Email Alvin Reiner:firstname.lastname@example.org
An open house for Champlain Valley Senior Community will be held Saturday, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with state and area dignitaries scheduled for 1 p.m.
To learn more, go to: champlainassistedliving.com or call 817-9108.