22 Aug

Grant gives NewVue new life for turning former Leominster school into housing

Reprinted from the Sentinel and Enterprise

By Peter Jasinski

pjasinski@sentinelandenterprise.com

LEOMINSTER — With a new state grant promised, NewVue Communities hopes to be able to move forward soon with its long-planned conversion of the former Carter Junior High School on West Street into affordable-housing units.

“It’s very exciting and we’re very fortunate to get this,” NewVue Executive Director Marc Dohan said. “We’ll be taking a school that’s no longer in use, that a lot of people have memories tied to, and putting it back into use. This is a critical day for us to get this funding.”

Gov. Charlie Baker’s office announced Tuesday that $72 million in grants had been awarded to projects throughout the state to rehabilitate and preserve nearly 2,000 housing units. The plan to create 39 units of housing in Leominster is among those listed, though no mention was made of how much money NewVue communities was awarded.

Dohan said Wednesday that he hasn’t yet been told the exact amount of money, but he’s confident it’s enough to cover the rest of the costs for the project.

He estimated that between $10 million and $11 million will come from the state.

He said the total cost of the project is about $16 million, and that NewVue has already raised between $5 million and $6 million already.

“We have some that we’re borrowing and some from other grants as well,” Dohan said.

The project has been in development for about five years, and NewVue communities has been waiting more than a year to have enough funding before being able to begin construction.

Plans for the renovation have already been completed and approved by all pertinent city departments.Once completed, the former Carter School will feature 39 affordable family housing units, 16 of which will be designated for households earning less than 30 percent the area median income. The building’s remaining units are expected to house only tenants with annual incomes between $25,000 and $50,000.

Empty since the mid-1990s, the school has experienced significant deterioration of its interior, including fire damage, a breached roof and a collapsed stairwell.

The renovation is expected to take about a year, but Dohan was unable to say when a start date might be scheduled.

“We’re trying to go over everything as quickly as we can, but we don’t have a date at this time,” he said.

Dohan said NewVue will continue to seek additional money as it considers possible upgrades to the current plan.

When reached for comment Wednesday, Ward 5 City Councilor Richard Marchand, who represents the neighborhood in which the housing units are being built, said he’s happy to hear the project is moving forward.

“The Carter building has been a contentious item in this city for decades, and I’m glad to see this proposal come to fruition,” Marchand said. “The concerns of the neighborhood have always been on the table, and I think we’re all pleased with this.”

Marchand added that he hopes rehabilitation of the property will also help alleviate current traffic problems at Hall and West streets, located at the corner of the Carter School property.

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