The Portland Planning Board voted 6-0 Tuesday night to approve plans to redevelop the former Nathan Clifford Elementary School into market-rate housing.
A Portland company, Developers Collaborative, plans to build 22 units in the three-story building on Falmouth Street. The project will also maintain 18,000 square feet of land as public open space through an easement with the city.
Developers have estimated that rents for the apartments will range from $1,100 a month for a 646-square-foot unit to $2,400 for a 1,420-square-foot unit.
Kevin Bunker, who represents Developers Collaborative, told the Planning Board his development team has secured financing for the project and plans to break ground in February.
“It’s a great project, a great use of an historic building, and I am glad to see that it is going to make it onto the National Register (of Historic Places),” said Planning Board member Elizabeth Boepple.
The city sought proposals for the 104-year-old school building soon after students began attending the new Ocean Avenue Elementary School in 2011.
Only two developers responded to the city’s request for proposals, and their proposals were reviewed by a neighborhood advisory committee. Community Housing of Maine proposed an affordable-housing project that would have required a zoning change – something the neighborhood opposed.
Developers Collaborative originally offered $200,000 for the building and adjoining land, where it planned to build two duplexes, leaving 6,000 square feet of open space.
But city councilors on the Housing and Community Development Committee, which negotiated the sale, recommended a lower price so the city could get more open space.
Last month the council approved selling the school for $1.
At Tuesday night’s public hearing, no one from the public spoke against or in support of the reuse effort. Planning Board members, however, praised the project.
“It’s a great reuse of a wonderful historic building that Portland is proud of,” Bill Hall said.
“I am glad to see that building put back into use. It’s a beautiful building,” Timothy Dean added.
The building has 44,000 square feet of floor space and sits on a lot of about 1½ acres. It was designed by the renowned architect John Calvin Stevens and is named after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Nathan Clifford, whose grandson, also named Nathan Clifford, was Portland’s mayor in 1906, when the school’s construction began.
The city has designated the school, which opened in 1909, a historic landmark.
At a meeting in late October, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission approved the school for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. The designation is needed so the project can be eligible for tax credits.
Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: