The Winslow Junior High School on March 12, 2019. While the school department will use the building for sixth graders this year because of the space considerations that come with dealing with coronavirus, KVCAP proposes repurposing the building to create 35 apartments for seniors. Morning Sentinel file photo

After months of deliberation the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program presented plans at the Winslow Town Council meeting Monday night to repurpose the old Winslow Junior High School as 35 affordable senior housing units and seek out partners that would make use of the gymnasium, auditorium and a few classrooms for office space.

Although the school building is currently being used for sixth grade and child care, the property at 22 Danielson St. will look different in the coming years.

Dave Pelton, KVCAP’s director of real estate development, provided the Town Council on Monday with information about what his organization is planning for the future of the building. There was no vote and the ideas are in the early stages.

“It’s a complicated piece of property to repurpose to something other than a school,” Pelton said. “My job is to think about what is possible.”

KVCAP builds housing “that’s a little bit more affordable than market rate.” The organization hired an architect to look over the building and consider its future.

The property does not qualify for Maine State Housing’s affordable housing program. KVCAP also considered making it a historical property, but that falls short of the funding necessary to repurpose the building.

“We could use the historic funding for the entire property, even the entire 1970s’ portion, but it still isn’t quite enough from a funding point of view to really pull it off,” Pelton said.

Council chairperson Ray Caron asked about funding to bring the property up to code. The gymnasium and other items need updating. KVCAP’s plan will meet safety regulations, but the organization is not planning any significant renovations beyond bringing the entire building up to code.

“KVCAP would definitely take on part of that responsibility with the renovations, but bringing it to code is about as far as financially feasible,” Pelton said.

There would need to be a third party to manage the auditorium and gymnasium spaces along with a few offices. There could be partnerships with local community organizations to utilize those spaces.

The last resort is to knock the school down, but Pelton does not expect that to be necessary.

Caron hopes to have a committee formed in October to look at possible third party partners. The group would be headed by former Town Manager Mike Heavener.

District 1 council member Patricia Ayer said she felt uncomfortable putting money back into the building as the district just went to a two-school model. Ayer asked what “affordable” meant, and Pelton said they’ll go with what Maine Housing assigns the rent to be.

District 5 member Steve Russell referenced a $750,000 bid for demolition of the building, and suggested the building’s renovation or any project that has to do with the old school would be a better option for the town.

District 3 councilor Jerry Quirion asked about taxes, and was told the property would be taxable.

“I think it has a lot of opportunities worth exploring,” Winslow Parks and Recreation Director Amanda McCaslin said.

Pelton plans on asking for a TIF as well, and said there would be 30 or so years of taxable revenue for the town.

At-large councilor Lee Trahan asked about an age limit. Pelton said he’s looking at one and two bedroom units for residents age 55 and older.

The plan, pre-pandemic, was supposed to move forward at the end of this year. With coronavirus, that didn’t happen.

“KVCAP is in the neighborhood for the long term, no matter what,” Pelton said. “The projects that work best in our experience are through partnerships. It’s filling a need in a town in as many ways as we can for a property.”

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