Work begins in Wiscasset on senior housing facility

Wed, 02/15/2023 - 6:30pm

Renovations are underway for converting the former Wiscasset Primary School, 146 Gardiner Road, into a senior housing facility. The mechanical plans await state approval.

The developers are proposing about 100 units of senior living that include a combination of independent living, assisted living and memory care units. The property is owned by Wiscasset Senior Living LLC (WSL), which is remodeling and adding an addition to the former school. Once the facility is completed, it will be operated by Everbrook Senior Living.

Frederick Mielke, Optimus Construction Management member, responded to email questions from Wiscasset Newspaper, and Sara Goff, also of Optimus Construction Management, relayed the answers. Mielke stated the facility will be ready for occupancy in the summer of 2024.

“The (project’s) civil engineer is Trillium Engineering Group from Yarmouth, Maine. The architectural and structural drawings have been completed by Gori and Associates from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The design work for HVAC and plumbing are currently in progress. We are in the process of negotiating work and other trades with local companies,” wrote Goff. “Demolition on the existing building and construction in the existing building will not begin until the mechanical plans have been approved by the state,” she added.

The facility will provide memory care housing along with independent living and assisted living residences. “Memory care units are a separate section within the facility specifically designed for residents with dementia issues. This area also has its own large outdoor courtyard,” wrote Goff.

The renovations include adding a kitchen along with an area offering restaurant-style dining. Goff noted there is also a planned addition at the rear of the building of about 58,000 square feet. “This will house some of the assisted living units and the independent living units,” she stated.

A number of changes are also planned on the exterior of the building. “Parking will be located to the side of the existing building and at the rear behind the new addition,” she added. The main entrance will be on the south side of the building facing a planned parking area. Goff estimated after the facility opens it would be staffed by a combination of 60 or more full and part-time employees. Tom McKenzie of Alna is serving as the project superintendent.

Last September, Wiscasset’s planning board approved the proposal contingent on sewer issues and costs being resolved. Asked Feb. 15 if the applicant had met that condition yet, Town Manager Dennis Simmons said in an email: “I received the evaluation report and recommendations on the pump station in question on (Feb. 9). I have reviewed it but not yet discussed it in detail with Bill Olver (of Olver Associates) or representatives of the senior living center. Representatives of the senior living center have previously expressed a willingness to work with the town on any upgrades needed so I would not expect this issue to hold up their needed permits.”

The elementary school opened in 1973. According to Wiscasset Newspaper files, the school had 50 rooms, a full basement and two large parking lots; after Wiscasset’s enrollment declined, voters in a December 2014 referendum agreed to close the school; in 2015, the school closed and selectmen put it on the market. The property was bought for $505,000 by JSJ Holdings LLC of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who closed on the 11.6-acre property Jan. 30, 2017.

In 2020, voters amended Wiscasset’s land use ordinance permitting the former school to be used for housing.