GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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March 27, 2013

Long-term housing article proposed

Rockport looks to secure old school for 99 years

ROCKPORT — Residents of the apartment complex on 4 Broadway recall the days when they were students in the building when it housed the town’s high school.

Now, if voters back an article at the Annual Town Meeting, residents like them will be able to live on the property all the way into the next century.

The article, proposed by the Board of Selectmen, would allow the town to lease the privately owned Rockport High School Apartments, which sit on town land, and preserve the site’s continued use as low- and moderate-income housing for senior citizens from the current expiration date of 2061 right through 2112.

Last year, voters backed an article at the Annual Town Meeting to award $250,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to Harborlight Community Partners, a Beverly-based nonprofit group that advocates affordable housing, a 99-year lease on the building and provide some minor renovations.

Now, it is back up to voters whether or not to agree to the actual 99-year lease on the building that would ensure its use as affordably priced housing.

While Harborlight has agreed to lease the property; the assessing records show the building, valued at $1,132,000 is still owned by M.B. Management Company of Braintree.

Andrew DeFranza, the Executive Director of non-profit, said acquiring the site has taken longer than expected. DeFranza said that getting through all the paperwork associated with a federal Department of Agriculture project such as this can take some time, but the nonprofit company is still on track to lease the property.

Harborlight also renovated Pigeon Cove Ledges after acquiring in in 2011, and DeFranza said that property combined with the Rockport High School Apartments make up about half of the town’s low-income housing portfolio.

The high school complex, built in 1915, houses 31 people. The building was placed onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 and had served as town’s high school until the 1980s.

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