Paris school to become elderly housing

PARIS — Avesta Housing has a green light to begin renovating the former Mildred M. Fox School into 12 low-income senior apartments this summer.

The first and second floors of the schoolhouse at 10 East Main St. will each have six apartments, each with a bedroom, a bathroom and a living and dining area, Shreya Shah, development officer for Avesta Housing, told the Planning Board last month.

The units will be available to those 55 and older with annual incomes of between $19,400 and $26,580. Tentative rents will be between $519 and $623 a month.

There will be two washers and two dryers on site and an elevator that will service all three levels, including the basement.

The building will have radiant heating with propane. There will also be air conditioning. Two hot water boilers will be installed in the basement.

“The basement is going to be a community space where residents can sit down to do a puzzle (and) talk with each other,” Shah said. There will also be an area with internet access where residents can teleconference with a doctor or medical provider to avoid having to go to the office.

Town Clerk Liz Knox, who attended the Fox School, asked if the original hardwood floors would remain. The plan is to incorporate them into the new design, Shah and Greer said.

On the outside, the fire escape will be removed but the windows, siding and two entrances will remain intact. Shah said the plan is to take out the windows, retrofit them and reinstall them.

Shah said a big part of Avesta’s financing for the project is through historic tax credits.

“We cannot make a lot of changes to the exterior of the building,” she said. “It has to be pretty consistent with what it looked like historically.”

Greer noted the same goes for the landscaping. The plan for the 1½-acre property is to add a few trees along the parking lot to shade it and the walkway and to add short shrubs to soften the corners of the building.

There will be overhead, energy-efficient LED lights in the parking lot that “will be on either timers or some type of computer control so they’re on when they need to be or off when they need to be,” Greer said.

The paved half-loop drive in the front of the property will be removed and the area will be loamed and seeded.

There will be a garden space for residents. The fencing behind the building will remain as a barrier to the Little Androscoggin River. There is also a gazebo out back that will remain for residents to use.

Greer said there are tentative plans to add a building on the back of the property for more senior housing.

That wouldn’t be for another five years, at least, Shah said.

The Planning Board voted unanimously to waive a soil erosion assessment and public hearing on the project. The board also deemed Avesta’s application as complete and approved the proposal for permits and applications, contingent upon review by the state Fire Marshal.

Shah said Avesta’s funding is secured. The plan is to begin construction in July or August and the project should take no more than a year to complete.

The building was erected in 1885 by local historian and builder Silas P. Maxim, according to Ben Conant, president of the Paris Cape Historical Society. It was used as an elementary and high school, and for SAD 17 office space later on. Most recently, the Oxford Hills Christian Academy called it home until January 2016 when boiler issues forced the tenant to relocate.

Erin Place

Oxford Hills Sun Journal