The times they are a changin’, and that could signal the death knell for the proposed affordable housing development for the former Pope John XXIII High School site on Broadway near the Malden line. Since the project was first proposed for senior housing in December, 2019, the concerns about overcrowding at the public schools in the last year have become the priority for many residents.
The first neighborhood meeting that outlined the plans for the proposed development was held last Wednesday night and drew about 30 residents and elected officials. The meeting was organized by The Neighborhood Developers (TND), the designated developer of the project.
TND, which is not yet the owner of the property, is proposing to raze the old school and construct 138 units of affordable housing for senior citizens, veterans and families. Steve Laferriere, Director of Real Estate for TND, fielded questions and concerns from the residents in attendance.
“Tonight, residents can ask questions,” Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s Chief of Staff, Erin Deveney, told those in attendance, adding, “This format is designed to be interactive.” Deveney noted that there are two more meetings scheduled for residents throughout the city.
Many residents expressed the view that, given the overcrowding in local schools which has forced the School Committee to utilize every available space, including converting storage closets into classrooms, the former Pope John building, which was a functioning school through 2019, should be converted into much-needed classrooms for the Everett school system.
“Everyone agrees that we need more affordable housing, but the more pressing need is school space,” said resident Paula Steriti.
Residents also expressed their concern about the negative impact on their neighborhood during the demolition and construction process of the project, which is expected to take four years.
Deveney noted that there would be a high cost to re-using the building as a school. It is expected that repairs to bring the school into state compliance would be very expensive, inasmuch as the school was built in the 1960s when many of the current state guidelines were not in effect.
Deveney added that Everett taxpayers will have to bear the full cost of the renovations. Under current state guidelines, any project that might qualify for state aid usually takes two to three years to get into the funding pipeline.
Deveney also explained the procedure that Mayor DeMaria is following to determine the feasibility of re-using the building for school purposes. An outside firm will be hired to assess the current state of the school and the cost to bring it up to code. School officials then will be asked their preferences for the use of the school, whether for elementary or middle school students.
The next public meetings for residents to weigh in on the TND proposal are scheduled for August 24 and 31. The City Council is expected to take up the matter at its September meeting.