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LOCKPORT - The owner of Ultimate Physique, a Lockport health club that plans to buy the closed Washington Hunt Elementary School, said it will cost him plenty to convert the two-story building into a new location for his business.
"You're looking at a $1 million project, without a shadow of a doubt," Robert Muscarella told The Buffalo News last week.
He's offering $65,000 for the former school, which closed last June. The sale of the building has been approved by the Lockport Board of Education, but the district's voters will have the final say in a May 20 referendum.
Alderman John Lombardi III, whose ward includes the site on Rogers Avenue, said Friday he was "surprised" there hasn't been much reaction from the neighborhood to the proposed sale.
"I'm glad they're staying in my ward," Lombardi said, "but there's going to be a lot more traffic."
Ultimate Physique, which has about 400 members, has been located at 20 Ann St. for 18 years. The business is open seven days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. It employs nine people.
Muscarella, who owns the business with his wife Karen, said the original 5,000-square-foot building on Ann Street behind St. John the Baptist Catholic Church's Outreach Center has been enlarged three times and now covers 15,000 square feet, yet it's no longer big enough for the burgeoning business.
"The building itself is in rough shape. It's not worth putting any more money into it," Muscarella said.
Washington Hunt was built in 1929 and is heavily laden with asbestos. Also, the building is not handicapped-accessible.
Most of the interior walls that divided the buildings into classrooms will have to be demolished, which means the asbestos will be disturbed.
Muscarella estimated the asbestos costs at $200,000 to $250,000, and another $300,000 will be eaten up by compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including the installation of an elevator.
Besides that, fire codes require that Muscarella install a full sprinkler system with a separate water main from the existing one.
But on the positive side, the building is sturdy, with floors easily able to handle the burden of heavy free weights and exercise machines.
They must obtain either a variance or a special use permit from the city, since Washington Hunt is in a single-family residential zone.