PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland City Council on Monday night accepted ownership of the former Thomas B. Reed School, the latest in what has been a string of building handoffs from the school department in recent years as the system has upgraded its facilities.
The city now finds itself in the familiar position of trying to find a new use for an old school. The nearly 34,000-square-foot Reed school, parts of which were built in the 1920s, occupies 2.5 acres on Homestead Avenue.
The city’s planning and urban development department will next establish a reuse committee — the membership of which will be submitted for council approval at a future meeting — to come up with plans for how the property should be used moving forward.
Portland Public Schools most recently used the Reed school, named after a Portland native and influential 19th century U.S. House speaker, as its central kitchen and warehouse facility. But last summer the district moved its food preparation to a new industrial kitchen on Waldron Way.
The Reed school follows the former West School on Douglass Circle and the former Nathan Clifford School on Falmouth Street as old Portland schools handed over to the city to dispose of since 2012.
The nearly 50-year-old West School had housed the adult education program — among other programs — for 27 years before roof leaks and overall deterioration forced the school system to look for a replacement.
The adult education program was moved into the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland’s Cathedral School a year ago under a lease deal. Another West School program for students with emotional disabilities and mental health diagnoses has been slated for a shift to the former Goodwill Industries building on Cumberland Avenue, which the city agreed to purchase and renovate under a $3.6 million plan approved by the council in December.
Next up for the now-empty West School is demolition. City spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said on Tuesday the West School is due to be razed before winter, and work to develop publicly owned athletic fields there is likely to begin next year.
The somewhat more majestic 1907 Nathan Clifford School met a different fate. The Portland City Council agreed to sell the property for $1 to Developers Collaborative and its principal Kevin Bunker, who are building 22 market-rate residential units in the historic 44,000-square-foot structure.
The Clifford school trajectory is becoming a common one for old schools in Portland and around the state.
Portland-based Avesta Housing acquired and renovated the former Shailer and Emerson schools in Portland — now part of a single Munjoy Commons housing campus — and built new townhouse condominiums on the site of the former Marada Adams Elementary School on Munjoy Hill.
Avesta also rebuilt Biddeford’s former Emery School, Westbrook’s former parochial St. Hyacinth School, and Kennebunk’s former Cousens and Park schools as housing projects, to name a few others nearby.