Swampscott’s Machon School redevelopment delayed again

The Machon School in Swampscott has gone unused since 2007. (Spenser R. Hasak)

SWAMPSCOTT — Residents have anticipated the Machon School’s second act since the building was shuttered in 2007. They’ll have to wait at least one more year.

For the second year in a row, nonprofit B’nai B’rith Housing has received an extension to try and secure funding to build senior housing at the school.

“We are continuously applying for state funds,” said Holly Grace, a representative of B’nai B’rith, the nonprofit senior affordable housing developer that entered into a Land Development Agreement with Swampscott in 2016. “We are optimistic we’ll get funded, but we can’t make any promises.”

On Wednesday, Grace and Swampscott Community and Economic Development Director Marzie Galazka asked the Board of Selectmen to grant B’nai B’rith its second one-year extension, which was approved under conditions proposed by Selectman Chair Peter Spellios. A similar extension was approved last May.

“What makes this project OK for me is its notion for the 100 percent senior affordable housing,” Spellios said.

As part of the deal, the affordable senior housing developer must hand over its non-refundable $50,000 deposit to the town to be used for infrastructure, roadway, and pedestrian improvements on Burpee Road, where the building is located. B’nai B’rith must also complete a pedestrian safety study within 120 days, ahead of its previous schedule.

In an interview with the Item on Friday, Galazka said the estimated project cost was around $16,653,002 when the agreement was signed.

B’nai B’rith has funding commitments from a number of organizations to get as close to the estimated cost as possible, according to Grace. Last year, the developer’s pre-application for low-income tax credit from the state’s Affordable Housing Trust Find was denied. B’nai B’rith re-applied for the credit this past February and expect to hear back by August or September, according to Grace.

At the Wednesday meeting, Selectman Don Hause asked Grace if there were alternatives in place in case the funding was not approved.

“If we end up without the funding, we’d need to figure out the next steps,” Grace said.

As residents got up to discuss the disarray of the vacant building and the lack of anything being done about it, Spellios said the town, at this moment, is responsible for the maintenance of the building. Newly-elected Selectwoman Polly Titcomb left her chair and sat with the residents to speak as a neighbor of the property.

Titcomb said she has called town police a number of times to report various issues with the vacant building and no action was taken.

“No one is trying to stop any project here, but 12 years of a lack of communication in regards to this vacant building is discouraging,” Titcomb said. “It’s felt like there is no where to go in terms of being responsive to the problem and it’s not acceptable to wait a year and then another three. We need the affordable housing now.”

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