Arch Communities, WinnCompanies Complete $25.7M Redevelopment of Historic School in Southbridge, Massachusetts

SOUTHBRIDGE, Mass. — Arch Communities and WinnCompanies have completed a $25.7 million adaptive reuse project to transform a 106-year-old historic school building in Southbridge into apartments for seniors age 55 and older.

The Residences at Wells School features 62 apartments, 56 of which provide affordable housing for those earning up to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), including eight apartments reserved for residents at or below 30 percent of the AMI. Six apartments have been customized for handicapped and sensory-impaired households.

WinnResidential, the property management arm of WinnCompanies, operates the property. Tri-Valley Elder Services provides supportive services programming for residents. The property is fully occupied.

Bank of America is the sole investor in the project, purchasing all federal and state historic tax credits, as well as the federal and state Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). Bank of America also provided the construction financing for the development.

The three-story, 90,000-square-foot building served as a school for a century but had been vacant for eight years before construction began in 2020. It was built in 1916 as Southbridge’s first public high school and was converted to a junior high school in the 1960s.

The school was named for Mary E. Wells, the wife of the co-founder of the American Optical Co., an eyewear manufacturer that was once the region’s largest employer. Mary Wells became the first woman elected to public office in Southbridge when voters chose her to serve on the town’s Board of Education in the 1890s.

The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) provided the federal and state LIHTC, while the U.S. National Park Service and Massachusetts Historical Commission provide the federal and state historic credits. The MHP, the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC) and BlueHub Capital also provided financing.

The project has been designed to achieve the Enterprise Green Communities certification. Keith Construction serve as the general contractor and The Architectural Team served as the architect.