December 23, 2016
By GAYLA CAWLEY
SWAMPSCOTT — The former Machon Elementary School on Burpee Road and old Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue will soon become housing developments and town resident Jason Stadtlander is making their history the focus of an upcoming documentary.
Stadtlander, 42, said his three-part documentary, “The Heritage,” will focus on each of the two shuttered schools and the controversy encompassing those who do not want the schools torn down. He chose the film title because the documentary is about the heritage of the town, with a focus on two buildings that have been around for about a century.
The documentary will include interviews with former students, teachers and administrators from the two schools.
“I’m trying to capture the family essence of each of the two communities. … each of the two schools and sort of discuss why they’re talking about tearing down the buildings, why they abandoned them in the first place,” Stadtlander said.
Stadtlander, an Ohio native, has lived in Swampscott for 20 years. He works as a network administrator, but also makes films and writes. He’s created two other documentaries and is a published author.
He said he’ll be shooting interviews until March. He’ll be in production until the end of next summer and is hoping for a release date next fall. He plans to do some mainstream marketing for it and said he intends to distribute the film to Netflix and Amazon.
Stadtlander said part of his inspiration for the project came from sitting in on Town Meetings. He said people have strong emotions about both holding onto the buildings or letting them go. A lot of people have memories connected to the buildings. He recently found out that his elementary school in Ohio was demolished last February and found himself reminiscing with alumni about it.
The former Machon School will be transformed into affordable senior housing. Construction is expected to begin in 2019 on a complex that includes 38 one-bedroom units. The developer selected for the project, B’Nai B’Rith Housing, plans to reuse the original 1920 building and demolish the 1963 addition.
The old middle school on Greenwood Avenue is also set to become a housing project, with an affordable component. Town officials are weighing two proposals for either 11 single-family homes or a single structure with 28 luxury apartments or condominiums. Town Meeting members approved a zoning change for a 28-unit structure on the property.
The filmmaker has his own opinion on the fate of the two buildings.
“As much as I would love to hold onto the buildings … I think that they’ve been let go for too long,” Stadtlander said. “They’ve been sitting there for well over 10 years. I don’t really see that we have any choice but to tear them down.”
Gayla Cawley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.