The former Wiscasset Primary School on Gardiner Road has remained vacant since it closed in 2015. Photo courtesy of Dennis Simmons

The former Wiscasset Primary School property on Gardiner Road in Wiscasset may be redeveloped into about 100 senior living units that include a mix of independent living, assisted living, and a memory care unit, but the project will need approval from the town and state before it can go through.

According to a statement from Wiscasset Town Manager Dennis Simmons, JSJ Holdings, which now owns the former school property, reached an agreement with Wiscasset Senior Living LLC to redevelop the school, which has remained vacant since it closed in 2015.

If approved, Wiscasset Senior Living will be managed by Everbrook Senior Living, based in Southampton, Mass., the management arm of Optimus Senior Living. Optimus now operates facilities in operates facilities in Bozrah, Hebron and Windsor Locks, Conn. as well as Ware, Mass.

“Given the region’s increasingly older demographics, the development project meets a critical need for variable living options for seniors in the town, will support further economic, community, and workforce development and contribute to the productive reuse of the property,” Simmons wrote in a statement Friday.

The proposed 96,000-square-foot facility is slated to hold 34 independent living units, 27 assisted living units, and 38 memory care units, said Simmons.

The company plans to keep the shell of the existing school building that will hold about 30 units, but gut the interior, said Kelley. There are also plans to build a larger three-story wing behind the former school that will hold about 60 units.

The facility will hold a pub, theater, chapel, fitness center, activity rooms, dining space and a salon, according to Everbrook Senior Living General Counsel Robert Kelley.

“I think it’ll be a very impressive project,” said Kelley. “I think the seniors in the Midcoast will be impressed because we tend to offer a lot more amenities for the money than competitors.”

Kelley said the company is also excited to provide a large, completely enclosed outdoor courtyard space for those living in the memory care unit. He said the outdoor space should give residents “safe freedom” and the feeling of having an open campus.

Kelley said the company hasn’t yet determined what the monthly rent for the different units will be because “Building costs are in such flux right now and we haven’t done an in-depth market pricing study.”

Kelley said the need for more senior housing will only grow as the large Baby Boomer generation continues to age. That need is especially great in Maine, the state with the oldest median age where one in five people were 65 or older as of 2019, according to the U.S. Census.

In Lincoln County, just over 28% of the population was 65 or older as of 2019, according to the U.S. Census.

To facilitate and promote the development of the senior living facility, the Wiscasset select board will be seeking to form a tax agreement with Optimus, according to Simmons. The tax agreement will require a public hearing and approval by Wiscasset voters, the planning board, as well as the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

The public hearing on the agreement will take place online via Zoom on Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m.

“Based on the comments received, if the selectmen decide to continue the process then it will require a special town meeting to approve the (tax agreement),” said Simmons. “If the (tax agreement) is approved then the project would need the approval of the planning board.”

Should Wiscasset residents approve it, Kelley said construction would begin in in early March and end in May 2023. Residents would then be able to move into the facility in mid-June.

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