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Plans would give old Portland school new life

News

Plans would give old Portland school new life

PORTLAND — The development arm of the Westbrook Housing Authority will present its plans on April 28 to convert the former St. Patrick's School into affordable housing.

Westbrook Development Corp. won a conditional zone change on April 6 from the City Council that will allow it to convert the former private Catholic grammar school at 1251 Congress St. into 15 affordable condominium units. 

If the Planning Board approves the plans next week, WDC Development Director Guy Gagnon said, the approximately $2 million conversion could be complete by the end of this year or early next year.

According to planning documents, there will be no exterior expansion of the existing two-story brick building, built in 1922. Plans indicate a significant amount of green and open space will be added to the more than quarter-acre property, which mainly consists of asphalt paving.

"The school exterior will be preserved and maintained as a landmark building for Portland," Gagnon wrote in the planning proposal.

The application indicates the neighborhood "overwhelmingly supports" a residential use for the former school. 

Jeff Davis, a real estate agent who owns a nearby apartment building, said he was pleased with the proposal presented at an April 15 neighborhood meeting, which was one of three held on-site. 

"I think it will be a good use for the building," said Davis, who is familiar with WDC's Westbrook projects. "I think it will probably help land values in the area." 

All 15 condos will originally be marketed and sold to families who are either at or below 120 percent of the median income for Portland, a threshold determined by the federal Department of Urban Development. The property will be maintained by a condo association.

Five of those condos will be deed-restricted as affordable units, while the remaining 10 could be resold to all income brackets at a later date.

Gagnon said all but one of the units will be single-bedroom residences, ranging from 700 to 900 square feet. There will be one two-bedroom unit that will be about 1,100 square feet. 

In addition to preserving the build exterior, Gagnon said builders will attempt to preserve as many of the interior characteristics as possible. "We're going to try and incorporate the tin ceilings as much as possible in the units," he said. 

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net