North Yarmouth gets 2 proposals to redevelop former school

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NORTH YARMOUTH — With two proposals in hand to redevelop the former North Yarmouth Memorial School, the town may vote this spring on what to do with property.

MemoryWorks and Volunteers of America of Northern New England, both of Portland, submitted a combined bid, and A.H. Grover of North Yarmouth presented the other. Both can be examined at northyarmouth.org.

Town Manager Rosemary Roy will review both bids to ensure they meet the town’s requirements. The Board of Selectmen will review the information with Roy, and then set dates for two public hearings.

The board will then “bring a recommended plan for the NYMS property to a municipal vote in a manner that will maximize resident turnout,” according to information posted on the town website.

The town had sent requests for proposals to more than 30 developers and firms for re-purposing of the approximately 20-acre property at 120 Memorial Highway, which School Administrative District 51 turned over to the town in 2014 after closing the school.

The RFP followed a referendum approved by voters last November, which called for the town to cease all work toward developing the school as a municipal and community campus, with creation of a municipal sewer system to facilitate new development.

It also stipulated that Wescustogo Hall – the community-gathering place destroyed by fire in 2013 – should be rebuilt as stipulated in a 1997 agreement with the town; Town Hall should be maintained and renovated; the town should seek proposals for the school building, and it should gather citizen feedback on all proposals and have any plans for the school go to a town vote.

The proposals

The proposal submitted by Benjamin Grover, vice president of A.H. Grover and husband of Town Clerk Debbie Grover, would demolish parts of the  school building that he said town studies have shown are costly and inefficient or ineffective to rebuild. The gym and stage area would be preserved as part of an approximately 4,200-square-foot space.

Grover also calls for a new, approximately 4,000-square-foot Wescustogo Hall to be built on an existing foundation and concrete slab, and attached to the existing space. Work on parking lots, sidewalks, landscaping and a multi-purpose athletic field associated with that center would be included, and an existing baseball field would be moved.

Finally, a 32-lot senior housing community would be constructed and sold in several phases, with a buffer established between those buildings and the community center.

The town would continue to own the approximately 10 acres of school property that would house the parking lots, Wescustogo Hall and community center, athletic fields, and a future playground.

Grover is offering the town $425,000 for the remaining 10 acres, on which the senior housing units would be constructed.

The company put the cost of the town’s part of the project at $1.74 million.

Offsetting revenue to the town, according to Grover, could be the $425,000 from Grover; sale of sand and gravel at nearly $219,000, which would be made available after lowering the elevation of the land under the senior housing community, and nearly $627,000 in insurance reimbursement funds from the original Wescustogo Hall.

As a result, the total cost to complete the municipal portion of the project would be nearly $468,000, the proposal states. The town would also earn revenue off taxes from the senior housing community as it is built out.

MemoryWorks is headed by Kenneth Capron, who has experience working with seniors with dementia, and in systems design and analysis; Volunteers of America has spent significant time building and running senior affordable housing, according to the joint proposal.

The two groups propose building a 40- to 60-unit senior affordable housing facility to be called Crossroads (after the property’s location near the intersection of Route 9 and Route 115).

“Beyond housing the objective is to creatively fold in other amenities,” the proposal states, adding that including a community center to replace Wescustogo “is an excellent fit at this site. We think it is also appropriate to include a senior center, a moderate size day care and even a child-care center,” which the senior residents would run.

“(W)e propose inclusion of a community center and a senior center to serve as the replacement for functions once performed at the grange, and more,” the document states. “The size and design of those centers will be determined by funding for them.”

The proposal notes that 371 of North Yarmouth’s 3,560 residents are seniors.

“The intent is to make this campus self-funding through rental of space to health- and elder-care providers and retail services,” the proposal states, noting that possible sources of funding include Housing and Urban Development loans, U.S. Department of Agriculture grants, Wescustogo insurance proceeds, donated proceeds from the town from the sale of the original Wescustogo site, donation by the town of the middle school entire acreage, private foundations, and a capital campaign.

“Information needed to provide an estimate (of costs) is insufficient for this type of proposal,” the document states. “The objective however is to have no net financial impact on North Yarmouth taxpayers after completion.”

After initial construction, “the Crossroads Center should not be a long range burden to (North Yarmouth) taxpayers,” the proposal notes. “It will however need to be tax exempt in order to attract donors to a capital campaign for the project and for future enhancements. Minimizing debt obligations will impact the totality of the project.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

North Yarmouth has received two proposals for redevelopment of Memorial School, from A.H. Grover of North Yarmouth, and from Memoryworks and Volunteers of America of Northern New England, both based in Portland.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.