senior housing

St. Andre's Convent, Biddeford

Constructed in two phases in 1916 and 1930, the Colonial Revival style St. Andre’s Convent is part of a one-time Roman Catholic parish complex located southeast of downtown Biddeford in a neighborhood dominated by late 19th and early 20th century residences. The parish stood at the center of French-Canadian life in Biddeford, and enlivened the neighborhood for over a century and the neighborhood’s landscape for over a century before being closed in 2009.

Acquired by the Biddeford Housing Authority from the Catholic Diocese of Portland in 2015, the complex is and now known as Mission Hill, the project utilized federal tax credits and was redeveloped according to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards with the guidance of the National Park Service and Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

Biddeford Housing Authority saw Mission Hill as a chance to improve the quality of housing in the area and help stabilize one of Biddeford’s most troubled lower-income neighborhoods. Envisioned as multi-phase project to redevelop the entire St. Andre’s complex, it represents an investment of over $5 million and will include both residential and community spaces.

Extensive work on preliminary stages of conversion included restoring existing wood windows and exterior masonry and replacing vinyl replacement windows. A wooden staircase added to the interior of the building was lined with wood trim and railings fabricated to match historic materials and patterned tin ceilings on the second floor were carefully removed and reinstalled. The historic convent now contains fifteen one-bedroom and studio apartments for residents over the age of 55 who earn no more than 60% of the area median income.

This project to rehabilitate and reuse St. Andre’s Convent, together with the redevelopment of the rest of the complex, represents an important effort to revitalize an under-recognized neighborhood, provide high-quality housing for local residents, and ensure a brighter future for a treasured historic complex.

Hodgkins School, Augusta

In the late 1950s, the city of Augusta undertook a comprehensive program to accommodate rapidly rising numbers of school-age children of the postwar baby boom. The Ella R. Hodgkins Intermediate School was constructed as part of this effort, and is a largely intact example of a building intended to utilize the newest and most up-to-date principles of postwar design and construction.

After 50 years of service, Hodgkins was closed at the end of the 2009 school year. While the sports fields remained active, the building stood empty—a neglected landmark subject to vandalism and ongoing damage to the skylights and glass block of the rear facade.

Although the Augusta Housing Authority did not traditionally involve itself directly in property management, the Hodgkins School offered a special opportunity to fill an urgent need for affordable senior housing, while saving a sound and locally significant building threatened with demolition. A partnership with the Developers Collaborative and a long-term lease from the City of Augusta made the project possible.

The signature glass block that distinguishes Hodgkins School inspired considerable dialogue between AHA, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the National Park Service. Because damaged portions could not readily be repaired, and relatively few structures containing this type of block had been reviewed by NPS, it was clear that the decisions would set a precedent for other mid-century structures. Ultimately, a source for replacement block to match the historic materials was found, and new amenities, such as a healing garden with a stone labyrinth, were added to enhance the lives of residents. Today, forty-seven ADA accessible apartments inside the original building feature modern conveniences and design elements chosen to complement the school’s mid-century design.

Preservation and rehabilitation of the Hodgkins School created desperately needed affordable housing for Augusta’s seniors, and allowed a significant building on a wooded lot near the capital’s downtown to continue serving the community.