Jake Snyder, Red Skies Photography

The Mary D. Stone Apartments accomplishes two important goals.

It increases the affordable housing stock in Auburn, Massachusetts, by providing 55 homes for seniors, and it preserves a cherished building in the center of town.

To create the apartment community, developer Pennrose rehabilitated a nearly century-old school, preserving the main building while demolishing later additions and adding a new construction element to bring the property back to life.

Jake Snyder, Red Skies Photography

Adjacent to the Town Hall, the school has been transformed into studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments for residents 62 and older, including four units for individuals who are at risk of institutionalization. These homes allow residents at the brink of needing some assistance to stay independent for longer with certain support and accommodations that are built into the design. Forty-five affordable units serve seniors at or below 60% of the area median income (AMI), including a portion designated for residents at 30% of the AMI. Ten units are leased at market rates.

The Mary D. Stone Apartments has been selected the overall winner in Affordable Housing Finance’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards. Magazine and newsletter subscribers also voted the project as the best historic rehab development.

“The town of Auburn and their dedication, passion, and support for the redevelopment of the former Mary D. Stone School is what really made this special,” says Charlie Adams, regional vice president at Pennrose. “Many of our residents are former students, teachers, or staff of the school.”

The entire façade of the historic school was preserved, which included key elements such as the entryway and cupola on the roof. In addition, some of the most defining features are in the hallways and stairways. “We were able to retain in place all of the historic classroom doors, keep ceiling heights high, and even keep some decal letters on the wall that read ‘Welcome Mary D. Stone School Office,’” Adams says. “While the stairs now have new code compliant railings installed, the original wood railings have all been retained in place.”

Jake Snyder, Red Skies Photography

Pennrose worked closely with architect DiMella Shaffer on the project.

“Designing a new construction addition that was compatible with the historic schoolhouse was our biggest challenge and greatest accomplishment with this deal,” Adams says. “Not only did the exterior have to be aesthetically compatible, but the interiors also had to flow seamlessly from the historic to the new.”

Financing for the $21.5 million project was made possible by federal low-income housing tax credits and a significant amount of state resources, including state historic and housing tax credits and other sources of funds.

The Readers’ Choice Award winners will be recognized at AHF Live: The Affordable Housing Developers Summit, Nov. 14-16, in Chicago.