July 25, 2018

Former Fitchburg school sold for residential project

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The former B.F. Brown School in Fitchburg is slated to be turned into affordable housing.

A plan to renovate a former Fitchburg school into affordable housing has taken a step forward.

Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale approved a $5,000 sale of the B.F. Brown School to NewVue Communities, a Fitchburg nonprofit, which was announced Tuesday by the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, which has been a partner in downtown revitalization efforts. The transaction included $1.6 million the city received in an insurance settlement after a fire in the building, the foundation said.

NewVue, a nonprofit that assists businesses and owns affordable housing, has said it envisions 50 to 60 residential units at the former school aimed at housing for artists. The school, at Academy and Elm streets, is across the street from the Fitchburg Art Museum at the north end of downtown.

Marc Dohan, the NewVue executive director, said the organization is finalizing a contract with a company to repair the school's roof after it was damaged in a 2016 fire, and plans to have that work done before winter. It has also applied for state tax credits that would cover much of the estimated $20 million to $25 million project cost, he said.

NewVue, formerly the Twin Cities Community Development Corp., is a partner with Fitchburg State University on another downtown project in the works, the Theater Block redevelopment on Main Street.

The renovation of the long-vacant former theater includes educational and entrepreneurship space, and in later phases, new retail storefronts and an 1,700-seat performance theater. A 7,000-square-foot second-floor space in the first phase includes space for the university's video game design program, which is the only such public-university program in the state, and entrepreneurship programs.

Dohan praised the projects as helping to bring more people to downtown Fitchburg. "It'll be a huge transformation for that area," he said.

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