The Sitkowski School in downtown Webster had stood vacant since 2005. No longer needed as a school, the solid building was nonetheless an historic property and one that helped define the Webster downtown.
Thanks to the non-profit development team at Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), the school once again gleams and much of its original luster has been restored, this time as 66 units of affordable rental housing for seniors.
State and local officials and residents gathered recently to celebrate the grand opening of the restored school. NOAH worked with the town and state agencies for five years to secure financing for the $20 million project to convert the building to housing for residents age 55 and over.
MassHousing provided a total of $12.8 million in financing, including a $1.75 million permanent loan, an $8.1 million bridge loan and a $2 million deferred payment loan. The project also received $1 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which MassHousing manages on behalf of the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
"I am stunned by the transformation here," said MassHousing Executive Director Tom Gleason. "This is an investment we will make any time for a result like this. But when people move in here they make it a home and that's the most important part."
The building had been vacant since 2005. NOAH worked to preserve many of the building's historic features including some of the original oak woodwork, classroom doors and original wood floors.
"There were many sleepless nights and long days leading up to this but we have a new gem in Webster," said Don Bourque, chairman of Webster's Board of Selectmen. "It was not an easy task but worth the time and effort that was put into this facility."
"At the end of the day, it's about the residents," said DHCD Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay. "It's about a nice place for them to live here and enjoy their lives."
Additional financing for the project was provided through the sale of state and federal historic and Low Income Housing Tax Credits and financing from DHCD.
The Sitkowski School developers originally applied for 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credits from DHCD. As that program is heavily oversubscribed, MassHousing stepped in to help finance the project with the less utilized 4% tax credits.