The Wells School in Southbridge, Massachusetts, has lived a long life. It served as both the town’s first public high school and as a junior high for nearly a century. Now, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places and provides 62 age-restricted homes for seniors.
The property’s latest journey began in 2015, when WinnDevelopment and Arch Communities purchased the then-shuttered school, taking on a nearly $26 million rehabilitation that would add much-needed senior housing to the area.
“This community leased to 100% occupancy very quickly,” says Richard Relich, principal at Arch Communities. “It underscores the strong demand among seniors who are looking to downsize to more affordable housing without sacrificing on amenities.”
And sacrifice they won’t. The Residences at Wells School is nothing if not amenity-rich. The revamped property includes a private garden, a movie theater, a game room, a gym, a yoga studio, a residents’ lounge, a library, and a craft room. There are also support services through Tri-Valley Elder Services and an on-site wellness center staffed with a geriatric support coordinator, a visiting nurse, and a Medicare counselor.
One of the best features, though, is the creative use of the Wells School’s original materials and layout. The original gym floor was salvaged and reused in the lounge, gym, and yoga areas. Original lockers line the hallways. The main building even contains the school’s original courtyard.
Together, they offer seniors not just an affordable place to live—but one with unique character and historic charm.
As Adam Stein, executive vice president at WinnDevelopment, puts it, “Historic adaptive-reuse projects like this not only return magnificent structures to the local economy but also offer unique living spaces that are a welcome departure from cookie-cutter apartment complexes.”