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  • Jordan D. Smith

Old School, New Homes for Portlanders

For nearly a decade, the old Brush Street School building stood vacant. It was an eyesore complete with boarded up windows, cracked pavement and overgrown landscaping. When it was built in 1919, it was a state of the art facility that saw generations of Portland students, serving as an elementary school, junior high and senior high school at various times its history. Eventually it was shuttered in 1991. At one point the City of Portland even considered tearing it down.

That sad time is long past now. Through partnership between the Woda Group, Inc., a property developer from Ohio, and state and local officials, the once dilapidated property has undergone a dramatic reinvention into a modern apartment building with historic charm. The complex boasts 29 units with a mix of one, two and three bedroom apartments. Built with working families and seniors in mind, rents will be in the range from $388 to $709 a month.

Each unit is unique and features a delightful mix of historical features, like original flooring and restored woodwork in some units, along with modern innovations like energy efficient windows and appliances. The apartments are built on an open floor plan and some have been built on the principles of universal design in order to be welcoming to tenants with physical disabilities. The building has also been upgraded with a central elevator serving all floors. All units include central heating and air, and come complete with a stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, garbage disposal, washer, and dryer.

In addition, the complex features a community room and fitness center, off street parking and a picnic pavilion overlooking Brush Street Park playground. As a part of the renovations, Woda Group donated and installed new playground equipment for the long neglected park in the summer of 2017. The equipment came from another Woda Group project redeveloping a school property in Corunna, MI. Since then, the little used park has once again become a popular gathering place for neighborhood children.

The project has been supported by a variety of state and federal housing development tax credits designed to support the creation of affordable housing opportunities as well as financing from PNC Bank. “Transforming the classic Portland School into a new vibrant community represents a fabulous partnership with the City of Portland and a team of partners and stakeholders who saw the need for high-quality, affordable housing combined with the historic preservation of a treasured asset in the community’s history,” said Craig patterson, Woda Group Senior Vice President, in a release to the press.

Woda heald an open house on Saturday, April 14th. If attendance at the event is any indicator, these apartments will not be sitting empty for long. Already 9 of the 29 units have been leased. According to Leon Miller, one of the first tenants in Portland School Apartments, “it’s a nice place to live.” Mr. Miller, retired from Tri County Electric was looking to downsize so something a bit more manageable when the Portland School Apartments came available. While he didn’t attend school at the Brush Street School he says he remembers attending plays by the Portland Civic Players performed on the stage, which is now part of the community room. According to Woda Group Regional Manager, Vicky Jordan, those who missed checking out the renovations at today’s open house should be sure to mark their calendars for the grand opening to be held May 10th.

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