Jake Snyder, Red Skies Photography

The Mary D. Stone Apartments preserves a key historic structure while creating 55 homes for seniors in Auburn, Massachusetts.

After serving as an elementary school for nearly a century, the Mary D. Stone building shuttered in 2015, but local residents were adamant about preserving the school, which held historical and sentimental significance.

“There are a lot of people who went to school here or taught here,” says Karmen Cheung, developer at Pennrose. “Some of them have now returned as residents. To be able to see them utilize this space when it’s no longer serving its original intent but still serving the community makes this project special. This community has close ties to the building.”

Developer Pennrose rehabilitated the main building while demolishing later additions and adding a new construction element to bring the property back to life and preserve it as an integral part of Auburn.

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.

As part of the planning process, the team hosted an aging-in-place charrette to get local input and prioritize elements of quality senior housing. This helped reaffirm several principles that the team was working on, including creating accessible community spaces and integrating residents into the larger neighborhood. Marrying the old school with a new addition allowed the project to maximize the number of homes as well as have two elevators, says Charlie Adams, regional vice president at Pennrose.

Financing for the $21.5 million development includes federal low-income housing and state historic tax credits.