The fate of the Henry T. Wing School building will likely not be put before the voters at a Special Town Meeting tentatively scheduled for the last Monday in October.
“We were hopeful that we would get it on the fall warrant, but it doesn’t look like it,” Planning Director Ralph A. Vitacco told members of the Sandwich Economic Initiative Corporation on Monday, August 19.
Mr. Vitacco said town officials, including himself and Heather B. Harper, the newly hired assistant town manager, were hoping to meet this week to further discuss two proposals for the building that were submitted to the town earlier this month.
Ms. Harper, who began her new job as the town’s second-in-command last week, came to Sandwich from the Cape Cod Commission, where she served as a housing specialist. She was also the assistant town manager in Falmouth for many years.
“She will be an asset to the town in these negotiations because she is familiar with housing and tax credits and financing for affordable housing,” Mr. Vitacco told the SEIC members.
One of two responses to the town’s invitation to bid was from Stratford Capital Group, which would like to purchase the building for $1.3 million and build a $53 million mixed-income development for people over age 62. The 128-unit complex—tentatively named the Henry T. Wing Residences—would be built in three phases.
The other bid came from the Cape Cod Collaborative, an educational group that offers services to special needs students from 19 school districts on the Cape.
The collaborative is currently leasing part of the Wing school for office use and classes. It would like to extend its $50,000-per-year lease for another five years.
Each of the Stratford Group project’s phases would involve seeking tax credits through the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The tax credits, allocated to the state by the US Internal Revenue Service, reduce the tax burden on designated properties, so the developer can offer lower, more affordable rates, according to state documents.
The SEIC members this week had questions about the Stratford Group’s financing proposal, which also includes a stipulation that the town provide about $2.6 million in community preservation funding, to help the developer qualify for those affordable housing tax credits and pay for demolition costs.
“The DHCD wants to know the town is committed to the project,” Mr. Vitacco said, explaining why Community Preservation Act money would be required to make the deal feasible.
The Stratford Group is estimating that demolition costs would be about $2 million and the CPC money would cover those costs.
“If the town were to do the demolition, it would cost $5 million,” said Selectman Michael J. Miller, who serves as the selectmen’s liaison to the SEIC.
SEIC treasurer Charles H. Rich said it would be interesting to see whether other Cape towns had used preservation funds to finance affordable housing complexes—especially those towns with whom Stratford Group has done business.
The Stratford Capital Group purchased and transformed Bourne’s Kempton J. Coady School into senior housing a few years ago. The company, which is based in Peabody, also transformed the former John Simpkins School on South Yarmouth’s Main Street into senior housing.
According to the Stratford Group’s proposal, all the Wing School structures—except the red brick 1927 building facing Route 130—would be demolished and replaced with two- and three- story buildings containing about 40 units each.
Common areas would include dining rooms, game rooms, meeting rooms, and quiet spaces, according to the bid.
Mr. Vitacco told the SEIC members that the developer has offered to allow the community to use the auditorium, once the common areas have been renovated.
The collaborative, in its proposal, has offered the continued use by the community of most of the building.
The collaborative’s current lease runs out on June 30, 2020.
Mr. Vitacco said that if the Stratford Group’s proposal is chosen, the work would not commence until at least 2022. He also said there is a possibility that the collaborative could stay in the building in the meantime.
“Everything is negotiable,” Mr. Vitacco said.
The Stratford Group’s bid offering says three multi-story buildings would be constructed in three phases. There would be two studio apartments, 118 one-bedroom apartments, and eight two-bedroom apartments.
Most of the units would be for low-to-moderate income seniors and about 20 units would be rented at market rates.
The design is in keeping “with a vernacular Cape Cod style” of clapboard and shingle siding, pitched roofs and “generous use of trim” the bid says.
“The applicant is beyond excited about this development opportunity,” wrote Keith McDonald, vice president of SGC Development Partners, LLC, in a letter accompanying the bid. “The applicant believes the proposed development would be a huge success and will compliment [sic] an already well established community.”
Mr. McDonald said the developer would work with the town and the historic district committee to ensure that the complex would blend seamlessly into the historic district.
“This senior development is specifically designed for seniors who want to stay in Sandwich; geared for participants facing current housing issues or who no longer may stay in their current home, but who wish to remain living in the community,” Mr. McDonald wrote. “Our design for aging is supported by a rich environment of support services addressing health and well-being of our residents, as well as the greater senior population and Sandwich.“