A 106-year-old school building has been converted into affordable senior housing in Southbridge, Massachusetts.
Arch Communities and WinnCompanies announced the completion of The Residences at Wells School. Of the 62 apartments on the property, 56 provide affordable housing at rents of 60% of Area Median Income (AMI), including eight apartments reserved for residents at or below 30% AMI. Six apartments are adapted for households with handicaps and sensory impairments.
“I have long been a supporter of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and the Historic Tax Credit – two important tools used here in Southbridge,” said Representative Richard E. Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “The successes of these incentives should serve as a model for developing tax tools designed to directly benefit communities that are often left behind. When we help communities provide housing, we help community members thrive.”
The three-story, 90,000-square-foot building served as a school for a century but sat empty for eight years before construction began in 2020. It was built in 1916 as Southbridge’s first public high school and was converted to a high school in the 1960s.
The school is named after Mary E. Wells, wife of the co-founder of American Optical Co., an eyeglass manufacturer that was once the region’s largest employer. Wells became the first woman elected to public office in Southbridge when voters elected her to serve on the town’s Board of Education in the 1890s.
Adaptive reuse techniques preserved the historic features of the building, which was designed by Peabody & Stearns, one of the leading architectural firms in the eastern United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is among nearly four dozen historic adaptive reuse projects that WinnDevelopment has completed in five states and the District of Columbia.
“As a developer, there is nothing more fulfilling than restoring a historic landmark and bringing it back into service for a good cause,” said WinnDevelopment Executive Vice President Adam Stein. “Everywhere we work, we find situations where older people can’t afford to stay in their community. This effort is a small step toward addressing a much greater need.”
The new $25.7 million community features notable amenities, including an interior courtyard lounge, craft room, media screening room, fitness and yoga center, library, Amazon package locker, on-site storage units and on-site management office. WinnResidential, the property management arm of WinnCompanies, manages the property. Tri-Valley Elder Services provides supportive service programming for residents.
The project used both federal and state historic credits, along with federal and state LIHTCs. Bank of America is the only investor in the project that buys various loans. Bank of America also provided construction financing.
The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development provided federal and state LIHTCs, while the US National Park Service and the Massachusetts Historical Commission provide federal and state historic credits. Massachusetts Housing Partnership, Community Economic Development Assistance Corp. and BlueHub Capital also provided financing.
The project is designed to realize green business communities. Keith Construction was the general contractor and The Architectural Team was the architect.
WinnDevelopment is working on another project in Southbridge. Construction is underway to transform part of a late 19th-century mill building at Southbridge Mills into 48 units of affordable housing. Located within the 150-acre Southbridge Innovation Center, the $23 million project will convert the existing multistory, 70,000-square-foot mill building into 48 apartments, 43 of which will be available to households with incomes less than 60% AMI and five to affordable households. earn below 30% AMI.