Former Brewer Middle School to be converted into affordable housing

Posted Oct. 08, 2012, at 6:54 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 09, 2012, at 9:36 a.m.

BREWER, Maine — City leaders are partnering with the Brewer Housing Authority to convert the former Brewer Middle School into affordable housing and a service center for senior citizens. As part of the effort, the city is creating the Highland Street Community Revitalization Plan to improve the block around it.

The two plans, which have been in the works for years, are on Tuesday night’s Brewer City Council agenda.

“The vision of the plan includes a reuse of the former school buildings to accommodate housing, community services, elderly services and transportation while ensuring this quiet residential neighborhood is protected, preserved and revitalized,” a memo about the Highland Street Community Revitalization Plan states.

The block formed by Highland, State, Somerset and Parker streets includes the old middle school and vacant State Street School, which the city has talked about razing. There is also a playing field there.

With the help of federal Community Development Block Grant funds and other grant money, the revitalization plan aims to improve the residential neighborhood and complements the housing authority’s project, the memo states.

“This Community Revitalization Plan is intended only to promote and enhance the aesthetic value of this neighborhood, strengthen the commitment to Brewer Housing Authority and promote positive outgrowth in this area,” the council order states.

The Brewer Housing Authority had expressed interest in acquiring Brewer Middle School, at 5 Somerset St., several years ago after learning that it, along with Capri Street School, State Street School and Washington Street School, would be put up for sale after the new Brewer Community School was built to replace them. The new school opened last year.

Somerset Place Associates LP will purchase the old school, built in 1926, for $15,000 and the housing authority will be the developer. The buyer also has asked for a tax break, “which is necessary to receive points in the scoring of its [federal] application,” the order’s summary states.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development subsidy program provides tax credits to investors of affordable rental housing for low-income households.

The order, which provides no additional details about Somerset Place Associates, does not state how many units will be created at the old school, but does specify 24 parking spaces.

The school superintendent’s office, other administrative offices and the Alpha Classroom, formerly the Alternative Choices for Teens program, are now located at the old middle school.

Washington Street School also was left vacant after the new school was built. The city took ownership and on Tuesday councilors will consider applying for a federal grant to upgrade and renovate the site into a municipal recreational complex.

The city is considering applying for federal assistance under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act but must also agree to pay up-front costs in anticipation of federal reimbursement, the city council order states.

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