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 may be redeveloped into a senior living facility with 100 units.

Residents will decide whether to approve the project at a special town meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 7.

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

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

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

The living facility will hold a pub, theater, chapel, fitness center, activity rooms, dining space and a salon, said Kelley.

The former Wiscasset Primary School has remained vacant since the school closed in 2015 and is “in rough condition” and “deteriorating rapidly,” said Kelley.

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.”

Town Manager Dennis Simmons said he has received only positive feedback on the project. No one spoke against the proposed facility in the public hearing Tuesday.

“There is a great need for senior housing in the area and I feel this will be a very good benefit to the town,” said Simmons.

Madelyn Hennessey, representing of Morris Farm next door to the former school, told selectmen Tuesday there’s “a crying need for senior housing” in the area.

“From what I’ve read and understand, it sounds like a wonderful addition for Wiscasset,” resident Kim Dolce wrote to the board.

Kelley told The Times Record the need for more senior housing in the area 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.

The median age in Wiscasset was 46 as of 2019, slightly above Lincoln County’s median age of 51, according to the U.S. Census. In Lincoln County, just over 28% of the population was 65 or older as of 2019, according to Census data, while just over 20% of Wiscasset residents were 65 or older.

The U.S. Census also reported there were 1,829 living units in Wiscasset in 2019, and the town’s median monthly rent is about $732.

While Wiscasset’s median household income was $51,705 in Census data from 2019, just over 16% of Wiscasset residents lived below the poverty line.

As of Dec. 2019, 668 Lincoln County residents received supplemental security income from the U.S. Social Security Administration, totaling $370,000, according to the administration. Of those recipients, 131 were 65 or older.

The developer will also be seeking to form a tax agreement with the town to aid the project, which residents will vote on next month as well. If that tax agreement is approved, a percentage of the tax revenue the town gathers from the property in the first five years will be reimbursed to the developers, according to Town Attorney Shana Mueller. After five years, the town will absorb all taxes from the project.

Should voters approve the tax agreement, it will then need approval from the town’s planning board, according to Simmons.

Should Wiscasset residents approve the project, 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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