“It’s a home run.”
Those were the words City Planner Tom Kravitz used to describe the $2 million WinnDevelopment bid to buy the vacant former Aldrich Junior High School and …
“It’s a home run.”
Those were the words City Planner Tom Kravitz used to describe the $2 million WinnDevelopment bid to buy the vacant former Aldrich Junior High School and transform it into affordable senior housing.
“Home run,” were also the words Mayor Frank Picozzi chose to describe his goal of saving the brick building, with it’s stately columned entrance above a flight of stairs, overlooking Post Road. The school has been a landmark since it was built in 1934 and even today holds that distinction despite a few broken windows and torn shades hanging from vacant classrooms. With the consolidation of secondary schools from three junior and three senior highs to two junior and two senior high schools, Aldrich closed in 2017.
The city came close to awarding the bid of a charter school during the administration of former Mayor Scott Avedisian. While the administration favored the sale, it was opposed by the Warwick Teachers Union and never came before the council for a vote.
What is certain to appeal to council member is that Winn is not new to the game of bringing new life to old buildings.
Founded 50 years ago, Winn has created about 20,000 units of affordable housing in more than $3 billion in total development costs. It was one of five bidders for the building and 11- acre property and the highest. Bids ranged from $800,000 to the second highest bidder, Michael Grieco of Johnston, at $1,502,000. Johnston offered no proposed use for the property.
For budgeting purposes, the administration estimated the school would sell for $2.5 million. The
Bids were opened Monday night by Kravitz before the council. As he opened packets, he read off the name of each bidder and the fact that the submission included a $100,000 deposit. Then he read the amount but went no further to describe what was planned for the former school. That was just part of the story, and it wasn’t until he dug deeper that the dream of not only saving the building but repurposing it for housing seemed like it could become reality.
According to Winn’s 77-page page submission the initial development plan considers a mix of approximately 15 studio units, 55 one-bedroom units and five 2-beroom units. The development would be directed at serving seniors (55+) with a mix of incomes.
The proposal goes on to say Winn is a leader in providing top level resident services and on-site services for seniors. With its connections, the proposal reads, “Winn is able to provide a continuum of care services on site allowing residents to live independently and age in place.”
The Winn proposal highlights the company’s interest in historic preservation citing a “unique and lengthy track record of restoring and repurposing old mill buildings, factory buildings and schools” adding it looks to “focus on preserving the building and its rich history in the City of Warwick.” It goes on to say Winn would work “diligently with its team of historic consultants to get the property listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”
Winn is also looking for the city’s support in support in gaining financing of the project. The proposal cites a mix of federal, state and local funding including Low-Income Housing Tax credits, tax exempt bonds , Federal Historic Tax Credits , RI Housing originated mortgage debt and other local subsidy sources. The intent is to have the plan in place in anticipation for the January 2024 round of funding. The proposal cites the importance of local support to gain funding “including a local match of funds.” No amounts are mentioned but it is suggests local matching “can typically include HOME or Affordable Housing Trust funding.”
Winn proposes that upon taking title to the property that the land behind the school be subdivided and deed back to the city for public/recreation use.”
Winn also offers a timetable for the redevelopment of the school with its selection and execution of an agreement by this August. That would be followed with a survey and environmental appraisal and market study. Design would start in September with final financing submission by January 2024. Winn would be looking for RI Housing Board Review Approval in May 2024. Should it not receive approval, it would reapply in 2025, meaning a one year delay. It is looking for a financial closing and the start of construction in March 2025. Construction would be completed by September 2026.
City Council President Steve McAllister texted a response to the news.
“That’s a Big Papi grand slam! Exactly what I was hoping for! Great news.”
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