Design plans for Machon School unveiled – Wicked Local Swampscott

Posted By on March 27, 2017

Greg Phipps swampscott@wickedlocal.com @swampscott_rep

It's been a decade since the former Machon Elementary School closed operation in 2007. After years of public debate in Swampscott over what to do with the nearly-100-year-old vacant building and land, it appears the town is set to make use of the property on Burpee Road.

On Thursday at the high school, the town's community development director Peter Kane and B'nai B'rith Housing representatives, Senior Project Manager Holly Grace and Executive Director Susan Gittelman unveiled a schematic draft of B'nai B'rith's plan to construct Senior Residences at the Machon - a 38-unit senior affordable housing facility with 48 parking spaces.

"We have a special focus with senior affordable housing and we build with the goal of longevity," said Gittelman of the project, which is estimated to cost $13 million. "We're looking forward to a long partnership with the community."

The plan calls for demolishing the 1963 portion of the school building and renovating the original 1920 three-floor structure. A new three-story addition will be erected on the west side of the original building. Landscaping improvements, including a retaining wall along the east-side parking lot and a front yard area, will also be done around the building.

B'nai B'rith, a non-profit senior housing developer in the Greater Boston area, will pay $500,000 for a 99-year lease on the property, according to Gittelman, who said the developer has agreed to provide $50,000 for infrastructure improvements to the surrounding area.

The senior housing plan was approved by a convincing 159-85 vote at Town Meeting last May despite vigorous and vocal opposition by some residents, who mostly favored the idea for open space usage.

Burpee Road resident Gerard Perry, who opposed the project at Town Meeting, acknowledged on Thursday that since the plan has received strong backing from the town, the selectmen need to make certain it reaps beneficial results for the community moving forward.

Kane said the proposal is set to be voted on by the Board of Selectmen April 5. If approved, the permit process could begin this summer and applications for financing could commence by early 2018. Kane said the construction could take up to 18 months but likely less time. The project could break ground by 2019, he added.

Grace pointed out that the design calls for the 38 one-bedroom apartments ranging between 600-700 square feet in size and 38 parking spaces for residents, with 10 more available for guest and employee parking. She said the facility will employ three full-time staff workers, including a residence coordinator and a maintenance person.

The facility will include community and fitness rooms, a computer room, library space, and a laundry room, Grace said.

"Part of our focus is to provide (resources) to keep residents as active as they can be and not become isolated," said Gittelman of the senior housing community.

Grace added that construction plan calls for trying to avoid sand blasting during foundation work. She said all appropriate procedures will be followed.

"We've done environmental testing on the site and discovered lead paint and asbestos in the [existing] building that will need to be removed," Grace reported. "We also tested the soil and that showed no exterior contamination [on the property]."

Property tax revenue, safety, rent costs, age qualifications, and parking were among the issues raised by residents at Thursday's presentation. When asked what amount of town tax revenue might come from a fully occupied facility, Gittelman estimated a figure of $38,000 a year. She said the tax income is based on the rents, which she said would be around $1,000 a month. That figure covers utilities.

Gittelman said preference for residency will be given to people 62 or older, and that qualification is based on household income, which, for the majority of units, needs to be no more than 60 percent of the average median income. There is typically a waiting list of applicants due to the high demand for the senior housing, she added.

Grace said exterior lights will be directed downward to maintain safety for residents while not impacting neighboring properties. Surveillance cameras will be in place as well, she said.

Residents brought up potential problems the project might cause with storm water drainage in the area and what might be done to address it, as well as concerns about possible congestion brought about by people parking along Burpee Road to go to the facility.

One resident said the town and B'nai B'rith need to make sure repaving and repair work is done to Burpee Road and nearby streets after the construction is completed. Above all, area residents want to be kept informed.

"All I ask is that you keep neighbors involved and in the loop as to what is going on," Perry said.

For more information and details on the Machon senior housing proposal, visit the Swampscott town website, or visit B'nai B'rith's site at http://www.bbhousing.org/proposed-developments/.

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Design plans for Machon School unveiled - Wicked Local Swampscott

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