AUGUSTA — The developer who plans to convert the old Cony High School into senior housing learned Friday she had secured the final piece of funding necessary to make the project happen.

Construction on the flatiron building is expected to begin in early spring and be ready for tenants by the summer of 2015, according to the president of the nonprofit organization developing the property.

Augusta city officials and Cynthia Taylor, president of Housing Initiatives of New England, announced at a press conference Friday afternoon at Augusta City Center that the Maine State Housing Authority selected the project for the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. The developer will be able to use the tax credits to raise approximately $6.8 million, more than half of the $11 million project, from investors.

The flatiron building has been vacant since the new Cony High School opened in 2006, and the city has been spending about $75,000 a year to heat and maintain the building since then.

The city unsuccessfully sought developers willing to refurbish the building for a new use at least three times before Taylor proposed to convert the 83-year-old building into one- and two-bedroom affordable housing units for seniors.

“We worked so hard to have that developed with no success, and I think some of us were fearful that we would have a white elephant on our hands indefinitely,” Mayor William Stokes said at the press conference. “When Cindy stepped up to the plate and said, ‘I have an idea,’ and she of course had the track record, it gave us some measure of hope that this could actually happen.”


Taylor’s Housing Initiatives of New England group in 2000 redeveloped the former city hall into 31 assisted-living apartments called the Inn at City Hall. Nearby, the group also developed Kennebec Plaza, with has 67 units for independent living.

The flatiron project will have 48 units — seven two-bedroom units and 41 one-bedroom units. Taylor said they will be for more independent seniors, like Kennebec Plaza, and be priced at around $950 a month with utilities included. It will be open to individuals 55 years of age and older and have an maximum income limit.

City Manager William Bridgeo enthusiastically announced the funding news at the press conference and praised Taylor for her work, at one point putting his arm around her as he described her accomplishments in securing the necessary funding.

Taylor received approximately $650,000 in grant money this past summer from the Federal Home Loan bank of San Francisco. The project was also awarded a Community Development Block Grant for $300,000, according to Matt Nazar, director of development services for the city.

In July, City Council approved a tax break for the project that will return nearly $40,000 a year in property taxes to the developer. Housing Initiatives has agreed to pay $4,300 a year in lieu of property taxes for the duration of the 50-year lease.

Bridgeo said those supporting the preservation of the iconic building will be pleased that it will be restored and cared for as part of the project. Taylor plans to renovate both the interior and exterior of the building, while preserving its historical features. Historical artifacts, like the Daniel Cony clock, will remain the property of the city and be housed in the building, Bridgeo said.


Besides renovating the building, Taylor said the grounds will undergo significant work. A garden and public park will be built along Stone Street and add to the attractiveness of the streetscape, she said.

“From my standpoint, the reason that I love this property and this property is it’s so civic minded and so related to the community,” Taylor said. “It’s a partnership between Housing Initiatives and the city. It’s not ours; it’s not theirs; and we’re going to work together.”

Maine State Housing Authority awarded low-income tax credits to five other projects as well, according to spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte. The tax credits total $3.1 million and will be used to raise more than $30 million in funding for low-income housing projects. Turcotte said the housing authority will officially announce all recipients on Tuesday.

Paul Koenig — 207-621-5663pkoenig@centralmaine.comTwitter: @paul_koenig

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