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Former elementary set for transition into senior apartments

Occupant-ready planned for April 2019

An architectural drawing of the proposed Sisters Apartments complex for the former Prairie Elementary School administration building.

Credit: Ryan Uhlenkott
An architectural drawing of the proposed Sisters Apartments complex for the former Prairie Elementary School administration building.

— For nearly seven years, the former Prairie Elementary School building at Lewiston and Church streets has sat vacant, for sale. Within the next two months, the 1950s-era building will again be filled with sound, not of children but of construction crews as the facility looks to a new life — senior housing to start with, and plans for more related commercial developments on the property in the works.


Former Prairie Elementary School building on Lewiston Street. The facility has been on the market since November 2011.

“Our total goal is being community-minded; we love the community we live in and want it enhanced,” said Cottonwood developer Ryan Uhlenkott. “Anything we can do to help that is a goal of ours.”

Operating under Saint Stephen Investments, LLC, he and his wife, Heather, along with partners Tom and Barbara Mannschreck of Boise, purchased the approximate 20,000-square-foot total facility – minus the gymnasium — on about 2.45 acres from the Cottonwood School District earlier this summer through a sealed bid offering for $201,000.

According to Uhlenkott and Mannschreck, the goal is Oct. 1 to get contractors rolling on the four-phase project, the first of which will be to convert the former 5,000-square-foot administration building into a five-plex senior living complex, to be called Sisters Apartments. Plans are to have it ready for occupancy by April 2019.

“This will be designed with seniors in mind,” Uhlenkott said, with amenities such as roll-in showers, along with being a block away from medical services south on Lewiston Street at St. Mary’s Hospital.

Prior to being the admin building, it served as housing for the nuns when the facility was St. Joseph’s Elementary School. Uhlenkott said the interior will be gutted and replaced with modern infrastructure.

“We’ll leave some of that heritage,” he said, “but bring it to modern timeline, as well.”

This is the first of four phases the developers see for this project. Plans for the former eight-room school building and undeveloped acreage are still in negotiation with other parties and at this point aren’t being disclosed, according to Uhlenkott. However, he said they are aiming this toward medical-related and/or assisted living developments.

“We’ve done a lot of senior housing,” Mannschreck said, “and the school single level building makes sense for either senior apartments, or independent or senior living with care associated with it. And with its proximity to the hospital, it would be beneficial to that type of use.” He continued the balance of the property could allow to build additional buildings, whether more senior housing, or medical and/or dental offices that would fit, again, due to its proximity to the hospital.

“We’re fairly flexible at this point,” Mannschreck said.

The Uhlenkotts started Advance Welding and Steel, purchased and renovated 18 former North Idaho Correctional Institution employee housing in Cottonwood for occupancy, and a year ago established The Habit eatery across from their adjacent business, The Tire Guy. Tom and Barbara own a development company in Boise and have been partner commercial developers since 1990. The couples became acquainted through their involvement in the deacon formation program through the Diocese of Boise, and their shared interests in community development.

Mannschreck said the property wasn’t bought with intent to flip but instead as a long-term investment by both their families.

“We are a community-involved developer and we are happy to be hopefully bringing something special to the Cottonwood community,” he said, “taking a building, a piece of real estate in the center of town, and breathing some new life into it.”

For the Uhlenkotts, the development comes full circle.

“My wife and I both went to school at that building,” Uhlenkott said, “and now we’re part owners.”


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