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Swampscott wins award for Machon transformation

Barbara Nygren has been a resident of The Machon, a 55+ affordable community, in Swampscott since the building opened after being converted from a former school. (Spenser Hasak)

SWAMPSCOTT — The National Affordable Housing Management Association, or NAHMA, awarded the town’s senior housing complex, The Machon, its 2022 Vanguard Award for Major Rehabilitation of a Historic Structure into Affordable Rental Housing.

Following years of collaboration with the town, nonprofit developer B’nai B’rith Housing first opened The Machon’s doors in July 2021. The property, formerly Machon Elementary School, now houses about 50 senior residents across 38 one-bedroom units. Much of the building’s original art-deco architectural detail has been preserved. The Machon’s executive director Susan Gittleman said the school’s original clock remains in the building and residents use its chalkboards for programming.

Gittleman said NAHMA awards are “like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval” in the housing development industry.

“Having the town be involved in certain ways, being located so strategically right in the park, its high level of activity — these are the things that made it particularly compelling,” Gittleman said. “The exceptional design, the attention to detail — they like to shine a light on something that they view as really special. We feel really grateful that we represent those values and exceptional quality.”

The property was built as a large masonry building in 1920 to educate elementary schoolers for 87 years. The school closed due to budgetary issues in 2007 and sat empty for over eight years.

The property’s recent transformation included a new 17,383-square-foot addition. The Machon offers its residents a community room with a grand fireplace, a library, a screening room, laundry facilities, a mailroom, and a fitness center.

Resident Marcia MacGillivray moved in with her husband when the facility opened last July after living on Martha’s Vineyard for about 30 years.

“We love it here,” MacGillivray said. “All you see is green when you look out, so it’s a pleasant neighborhood. We love the layout. It’s always 10-steps to the bathroom. We go to the meeting room and there’s always a puzzle.”

Resident Barbara Nygren was also one of the first to move in.

“I swore I’d never move into an apartment like this, but my landlord sold the house,” Nygren said. “I love it. …The people are so nice. The management, the staff — you couldn’t ask for any better. The owners are very accommodating and the grounds are beautiful.”

Gittleman emphasized that The Machon’s development was a community effort. She said its completion wouldn’t have been possible without the Select Board, Community and Economic Development Department, Senior Center, and cooperation from the neighborhood.

The Machon will celebrate its first anniversary and community partners at an award ceremony open to the public at 11 a.m. at the property on Oct. 10. Gittleman said the event will also honor those at the town’s Public Works, Police, and Fire Departments for their work supporting the development and its residents.

“It’s a celebration of something very special,” Gittleman said. “Swampscott is a wonderful town and the Machon is a really special part of the community.”

Rachel Barber can be reached at rachelbarber@itemlive.com.

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