Apartment plan proposed for old Jefferson Street School

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The Old Town Housing Authority is exploring the possibility of converting the old Jefferson Street School into apartments.

The school was used by the Southern Penobscot Regional Program until last year, when that program was moved to Bangor. The property is now in the city’s hands; while a few parties had expressed interest, none of them indicated they wished to move forward with redevelopment of the property, either unwilling or unable to make repairs and renovations to the building.

This past week Laurie Miller, executive director of the Old Town Housing Authority, told councilors the authority would be interested in converting the school into affordable housing units – 20 to 24 of them, each most likely having one to two bedrooms. While some of the units could go at market rate rents, Miller said that the foundation of the project is based on getting tax increment financing to help bring the project to fruition, and units at market rate would not be eligible for such financing, meaning other venues for funding would need to be found.

The TIF currently being debated would be for the first 15 years of the complex, with 51 percent of taxes generated going back into the project, the remainder going to the city. At the end of 15 years the complex would pay its full 100 percent.

While some folks may associated low income properties as bringing with them potential problem tenants, Miller said properties overseen by the Old Town Housing Authority are the cause of very few callas to the police. Miller added that she is personally at each of the authority’s properites weekly to ensure they are maintained and kept cleaned up.

Miller said the authority would need several to prepare to apply for funding for the project in October 2015, and they a definite answer would be needed from the city by the middle of January. Councilors will be looking at the proposal again at a November meeting.

For this winter at least, it appears that the old school’s pipes will need to be drained and the building secured. City Manager Bill Mayo estimated doing so would cost about $5,000, which would be far cheaper than heating the 21,000 square foot building.