Storm Damaged School In Line For Historic Designation
A former school in Springfield, Massachusetts that was heavily damaged in the 2011 tornado is being proposed as a local historic district.
The Springfield City Council this month gave unanimous first-step approval to creating the new Elias Brookings Local Historic District. It is a move that will protect the exterior features of the nearly century old building.
Support for the designation came from the Springfield Preservation Trust, the Springfield Historical Commission, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the Maple High-Six Corners Neighborhood Council, and the current owner of the former elementary school – Home City Development.
The city sold the building to the nonprofit housing developer in 2018.
Peter Serafino of Home City said a $20 million project to build 42 affordable apartments in the former school will be finished next year.
"We believe it will be a great historic and residential asset to the city," Serafino said.
Ward 3 City Councilor Melvin Edwards said affordable housing is a great reuse for the landmark building.
"You never want to have a vacant historic building sit and end up being destroyed because of neglect and we know that across the nation that the investment in historic buildings like this school and repurposing them has a benefit that extends beyond the street, the neighborhood, and the community," Edwards said. "This is a benefit for the entire city."
Part of the financing for the housing project includes federal and state historic tax credits. Also, $250,000 in Community Preservation Act funds were awarded to the project in 2020 with the stipulation that an historic district designation be sought, said Bob McCarroll, Chair of the Community Preservation Committee.
"Whenever the Community Preservation Committee recommends funding for an historic property, it wants to see the property permanently protected on the outside and one of the ways to do that is by creating a local historic district that gives the Springfield Historical Commission authority over exterior alterations," McCarroll said.
The school, built in 1925, was designed by Morris Maloney in the Collegiate Gothic style. The 2001 tornado did not destroy the building’s historic features, said McCarroll.
"It was so sturdily built that it indeed was damaged, but unlike other buildings in the region that got hit by that EF-3 tornado it is still relatively intact," McCarroll said.
Of the 19 local historic districts in Springfield, nine consist of a single building, according to the city’s Office of Planning and Economic Development.
"Because there is no landmark designation in Massachusetts, communites that want to preserve a single building use the historic district act to do that," McCarroll said.
A final vote by the City Council to approve the new historic district is expected in September.
A new Brookings Elementary School was build a few blocks from the original. It opened in 2015.