Thirty new affordable apartments for seniors opened in an old schoolhouse in Kennebunk, Maine, this past Labor Day.

“A lot of these people had ties to Kennebunk,” says Matt Peters, development officer for Avesta Housing. “Many had moved away but hadn’t been able to move back.”

Kennebunk, a rural town of 10,000, neighbors Kennebunkport—the coastal town that has been made famous by being the summer home to the Bush family. Property values are high, and affordable housing is hard to find.

The rehabilitation of the Park Street School created a dozen new affordable apartments in an old, brick schoolhouse a short walk from downtown.

The builders left in place historic details like chalkboards, slate floors, and glass-paneled classroom doors.

Avesta also built 18 apartments in a new addition linked to the school.

The old school gym is home to a community center where seniors gather for services and events like the monthly Community Cafe, organized by the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, which gives local seniors the chance to socialize and eat a healthy meal. The developers also gave 10,000 square feet of land behind the building to the town for a community garden.

Built in the 1920s, the Park Street School had stood empty after it closed in 2005. There has been a school on the site since 1833.

Maine’s tax credit for historic rehabilitation, which passed in 2008, contributed $1.2 million, which made the difference for the $7.7 million project to be completed.

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