SOUTH PORTLAND — The Planning Board on Tuesday unanimously approved revised plans to turn the former Roosevelt Elementary School into condominums.
Anew Development purchased the 86-year-old building at 317 Pine St. from the city in December 2013 and received site plan approval in March. After hearing from prospective tenants, however, developer Ethan Boxer-Macomber shifted gears.
“It’s essentially the same project, just with a lighter architectural approach,” Boxer-Macomber told the board. He went on to say that the amendments make for a development that’s better for the residents, neighbors, and the city.
Several major changes were approved in the amended plan for the 19-unit Meeting House Lofts Condominiums, where construction is scheduled to begin no later than September 2015.
First, a proposed addition to the building will be reconfigured. Although the addition will still be u-shaped and contain nine units, it will be condensed and protrude from the main building by about 45 feet, rather than the original 70 feet proposed in March.
Boxer-Macomber said this would allow the units to be more energy efficient, and also have less of a physical impact on the abutting neighborhood.
Prospective buyers revealed during showings that the nearly floor-to-ceiling, 11- foot windows on the pilasters facing Pine Street resulted in a sort of fish bowl appearance, Boxer-Macomber said.
They will be removed, and the original brick facade, which is truer to the 1920s design, will be brought back. This means that the only windows in the condos will be in the rear of the units, but Boxer-Macomber assured the board that plenty of light will be available.
Carport parking of one covered space per unit will also be added to the 32-spot parking lot. This alteration, like the removal of the pilaster windows, came about after potential buyers requested a place to keep their vehicles out of the elements.
Three slatted carport units, constructed of the same material that will be used for balcony railings and facade accents on the main building, will be used. They will also reduce the impact of residents’ headlights, which was a concern of the code enforcement officer and neighbors on Mussey Street. The carports will increase the area of the parking lot, which will be reconfigured to accommodate them.
The location of the site drainage will shift slightly, to the western corner of the lot. In addition, the 10-foot public pedestrian access easement between Mussey Street and Pine Street will be realigned to provide a more natural and direct path of travel.
Boxer-Macomber told the board that this easement will better “flow” with the reconfigured lot, and also prevent pedestrians from cutting across the condominium grounds or through the parking lot.
Planning Board Member Linda Boudreau expressed concern that the easement would bring members of the public close to the condominiums, and that residents might be put off by this. Boxer-Macomber assured her that the easement is going to be situated 20-30 feet from the nearest unit.
“The kind of people that want to live in a neighborhood like this appreciate the fact that it’s a cohesive neighborhood and want to be a part of it,” he said, citing that one prospective buyer told him that she loved watching her neighbors walk by each day.
The members of the Planning Board discussed a few other technicalities but, overall, seemed to agree with Boxer-Macomber that the amendments would serve everyone well.
“I think it’s important that we get this right,” Boudreau said. “It’s a beautiful building.”
After the meeting, Boxer-Macomber said, “We couldn’t be more pleased by the outcome of last night’s Planning Board decision. Our whole team is eager to move the project forward, preserve and enhance this beautiful John Calvin Stevens schoolhouse, and provide a fresh and exciting new homeownership option on Meetinghouse Hill.”
The new design for Meeting House Lofts, at 317 Pine St., South Portland, includes carport parking for the 19 condominiums.
Plans to convert South Portland’s former Roosevelt Elementary School into condominiums have been revised, based on feedback from prospective tenants.