Two historic school buildings have been revitalized as affordable housing for working families and seniors in the southeast Ohio town of Nelsonville.
Leading affordable housing developer The Woda Group, based in Columbus, teamed with the Nelsonville High School Restoration Foundation and Hocking Athens Perry Community Action to provide the two buildings with a new lease on life.
The partners will celebrate the grand opening of Nelsonville Commons, which will provide 33 homes for residents earning no more than 60% of the area median income, on March 2.
One of the buildings dates back to 1907 and was most recently used as a junior high school before closing in 1992. In 2015, the building was condemned by the town. The adjoining building was constructed in 1924 and used as a high school and then a junior high before being closed in 1997. After closing, it was used as a gymnastics studio and was home to the Nelsonville High School Restoration Foundation archives until falling into disrepair.
The development team worked with the architects at Cleveland-based City Architecture to restore the buildings. A z-shaped connector building was renovated to provide access between the two buildings with an elevator. The original floors have been refinished where possible, and new historically accurate windows have been installed throughout the building. Other features include decorative tin ceilings and millwork, and original chalkboards. New plumbing, electrical systems, fire sprinkler systems, and an elevator also were installed.
The school’s original auditorium has been transformed into a community room with a kitchenette, a property management office, and a fitness center.
“The units are designed to be appealing to young workforce families or retired seniors—we’ve incorporated modern living components and aging-in-place features while retaining historical architectural features,” says Joseph McCabe, vice president of development for Woda. “Residents appreciate the vintage character mixed with up-to-date design and finishes, along with energy savings and accessibility. It is a unique combination that’s hard to find in these types of apartments.”
The $9.6 million historic rehab project was financed through state historic preservation tax credits administered by the Ohio Development Services Agency, federal historic tax credits through the National Park Service, and competitive low-income housing tax credits through Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA). Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing served as the equity investor, while OHFA provided a bridge loan through its Home Development Loan Program. Summit Community Bank provided construction and permanent financing.