Southbridge, MA Arch Communities and WinnCompanies celebrated the completion of a $25.7 million adaptive reuse project to transform a historic 106-year-old school building into 62 apartments for seniors 55 and older.
Congressman Richard Neal, Massachusetts Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, and state and local leaders joined Arch Communities Director Richard Relich and WinnDevelopment Managing Partner Larry Curtis, to cut the ribbon for The Residences at Wells School. Of the 62 apartments, 56 offer affordable housing at rents set at 60% of the area median income (AMI), including eight apartments reserved for residents at or below 30% of the AMI. Six apartments have been adapted for disabled and sensory impaired households.
The new apartment community features significant amenities including a residents’ lounge in the inner courtyard, craft room, media projection, fitness and yoga center, library, Amazon parcel locker , on-site storage units and an on-site management office. WinnResidential, the property management arm of WinnCompanies, operates the property. Tri-Valley Elder Services offers resident support service programs.
Bank of America is the sole investor in the project, buying all historic federal and state tax credits, as well as federal and state low-income housing tax credits. Bank of America also provided construction financing for the development.
The three-story, 90,000 square foot building served as a school for a century, but had been vacant for eight years before construction began in 2020. It was built in 1916 as Southbridge’s first public high school and has was converted to a high school in the 1960s.
The school is named after Mary E. Wells, wife of the co-founder of the American Optical Company, an eyeglass manufacturer that was once the area’s largest employer. Wells became the first woman elected to public office in the city when voters chose her to serve on the board of education in the 1890s.
Listed on the National Historic Register in March 2017, the property is located downtown. Local transport, services, shops and amenities are within walking distance of the property.
The site is also close to Harrington Hospital and the public bus route.
Adaptive reuse techniques have preserved the historic features of the building, which was designed by Peabody and Stearns, one of the leading architectural firms in the eastern United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries . It is one of nearly four dozen landmark adaptive reuse projects WinnDevelopment has completed in five states and the District of Columbia. No other residential developer in the United States has won more awards for converting schools, mills and other vacant historic buildings into multi-family housing.
The project used both federal and state historical credits, as well as federal and state low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC). The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) provided the federal and state LIHTC, while the United States National Park Service and the Massachusetts Historical Commission provided the federal and state historical credits. MHP, Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC), and BlueHub Capital also provided funding.
The project was designed to achieve Enterprise Green Communities certification – the leading US standard for designing, building and operating healthy, energy efficient and environmentally friendly affordable housing. Keith Construction served as general contractor and The Architectural Team served as architect.
The Residences at Wells School is the first of two ongoing WinnDevelopment projects in Southbridge. Construction is underway to transform part of a late 19e century in Southbridge Mills into 48 affordable housing units. Located in the 150-acre Southbridge Innovation Center, the $23 million adaptive reuse project will convert an existing 70,000 square foot multi-story mill building into 48 apartments, 43 of which are available for equal-income households. or less than 60% AMI and five available for households earning less than 30% AMI.
“I have long been a champion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and the Historic Tax Credit – two important tools that have been used here in Southbridge,” said Congressman Richard Neal, House Speaker Committee on Ways and Means. “The success of these incentives should serve as a model for developing fiscal tools designed to provide a direct benefit to communities that are often left behind. When we help communities provide housing, we help community members thrive.
“By taking outdated space and transforming it into a competitive housing opportunity, this project represents the thinking needed to create innovative new housing opportunities,” Polito said. “Our administration is proud to have been a part of this project and looks forward to the impact it will have on the Town of Southbridge.
“The fact that The Residences at Wells School is already near 100% occupancy clearly demonstrates the need for safe, quality and affordable housing for active seniors in this area,” said Relich. “I hope this development inspires other communities in the region to consider opportunities to replicate the success we have had here.”
“As a developer, there’s nothing more satisfying than restoring a historic landmark and putting it back in service for a good cause,” said WinnDevelopment Executive Vice President Adam Stein. “Wherever we work, we encounter situations where older people cannot afford to stay in their community. This effort is a small step towards meeting a much larger need.
“As a state senator from Southbridge, I’m excited to see new developments in the city,” said Senator Ryan Fattman. “The fact that these residences are largely occupied already demonstrates the need for such projects that provide affordable housing for seniors. I hope to see more developments like this in the future and in other parts of my district as well.
“I would like to thank and congratulate everyone who has been instrumental in bringing this important project to fruition,” the representative said. said Peter Durant. “The quality of life and affordability of this project will help seniors enjoy their golden years in the community they love.
“We are delighted that this project is coming to Southbridge. Not only does this project breathe new life into a historic school that has been an important part of the community for a hundred years, it offers our seniors the opportunity to downsize and stay in the community they call home.” said Southbridge City Manager Michael McCall. . “Furthermore, we see the project as the start of a revitalization initiative that will spur economic development and bring economic benefits to our community.”
“Mary E. Wells High School and later Junior High School was once the cornerstone of our education system here in the City of Southbridge. I am so proud to see it once again being used to serve our great community by providing safe and much needed housing for our seniors,” said Southbridge Councilor David Adams.
“Bank of America is committed to achieving the goal of creating affordable housing. Helping to build safe and affordable housing – in this case, transforming a vacant school building into a thriving community for elderly residents in the Town of Southbridge – is a visible demonstration of our support for the communities where we live and work,” said said Ed. Shea, president, Bank of America Central Massachusetts.
“We have a long history of supporting the Winn and Arch communities,” said Clark Ziegler, executive director of Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP). “Preserving historic schools and mills is not easy, but these developers have proven time and time again that they are up to the task, and we are proud to provide long-term funding that will create affordable housing for seniors and will continue to honor the name of the city’s first woman elected to public office.