Carter School Conversion Begins in Leominster

August 30, 2018
Carter School Conversion Begins in Leominster

The crowd listens to NewVue Executive Director Marc Dohan during the ceremony. Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

By Amanda Burke

aburke@sentinel andenterprise.com

LEOMINSTER -- Officials broke ground Wednesday on a project more than a half-decade in the making to convert the old Carter Junior High School into 39 units of affordable housing.

“We’re going to turn this into quality affordable housing to for people in Leominster and surrounding communities,” said Bill Brassard, vice president of NewVue Communities, who attended the former school.

Brassard spoke to city officials, project financiers and politicians outside the former school building that was surrounded by fencing and flanked by construction crews.

Mayor Dean Mazzarella thanked the many partners who helped the project come together. He recalled visiting the vacant school in 1985 with a former business partner, before he was mayor.

“You can see how long this building has been sitting here,” he said.

He said the city then showed the building to NewVue Communities, the regional nonprofit development corporation, which was ready to take on another project after redeveloping a historic building on Water Street into the Water Mill Apartments.

The project, said Mazzarella, is a “chance to keep this building up... here are so many memories here and it will look just like it did when you went to school here 20-, 30-, or 40- years ago.”

NewVue Executive Director Marc Dohan asked the audience gathered in the heat outside whether they attended Carter Junior High School, and at least nine people raised their hands, including Leominster City Councilors Sue Chalifoux Zephir and Mark Bodanza.

NewVue Communities acquired the property from a private owner in 2016. When the project is complete, the three-story brick building will contain 14 one-bedroom apartments, 21 two-bedroom apartments and four three-bedroom apartments.

The project is expected to completed in late 2019, but applications for the apartments will be accepted as early as next summer, according to Dohan.

Financing was secured through sources including state and federal historic tax credits, as well as affordable tax credits to leverage $17.4 million for the project, according to Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development Janelle Chan.

Chan thanked NewVue Communities for working to turn the building, which served as the city’s middle school from 1964 to 1984, into an asset once again.

“How cool would it be, in 14 months, to see that there’s families and children back in these hallways,” she said.

State Sen. Dean Tran said the project is significant not just for Leominster, but the entire district. State Rep. Natalie Higgins, whose grandparents attended the school, said the project addresses one of the district’s most significant needs.

“I know one thing that we deal with in our office is access to affordable housing,” she said. “I’m just so thrilled with the work that NewVue communities does to make sure that we have more affordable housing to support our communities.”

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