Springfield, MA – The Elias Brookings School was recently awarded a 2023 Paul & Niki Tsongas Award from Preservation Massachusetts for its successful adaptive reuse to affordable housing.
The former school building was built in 1925 and served as an elementary school until 2011 when it was severely damaged by a tornado. Replaced by a new school, the original, historic building was left vacant for many years, and ultimately acquired by Home City Development Inc. in 2018. In partnership with Davis Square Architects as architect, Allegrone Companies as general contractor, and Epsilon Associates as Historic Tax Credit consultant, the building was adaptively reused and converted into 42 units of modern, energy-efficient affordable housing. The project included the preservation and restoration of many of the building’s original features.
Representatives of Epsilon Associates say Massachusetts state historic tax credits and federal historic tax credits provided crucial funding to supplement other sources to make this a successful affordable housing project. Combined, the state and federal historic tax credits can provide up to a 40% credit on qualified construction costs that can be utilized by the developer to reduce income taxes owed or sold to provide equity to finance projects. Epsilon Associates provided historic preservation consulting services including preparing the historic tax credit applications, design review and preparing a National Register of Historic Places Nomination for the property.
The tornado damage to the building was significant at both the exterior and interior. Other alterations over time had also compromised the building including the loss of the original windows and decorative oriels. Despite the damage, the building maintained its Collegiate Gothic style. It is notable for its large size and symmetrical facade with projecting entry and end pavilions. On the interior, the building retains its original double-loaded corridors with terrazzo floors. Within the glazed-brick dadoes, ornamental figural tiles depicting monks flank most classroom doors. Many of these historic elements remained intact. Some historic features that were lost to time such as the oriels and windows were restored using historic plans and photographs. Other features such as the figural tiles and decorative interior masonry were repaired and reinstalled.
The one-time classrooms have been converted into one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments with high ceilings. Each unit received an in-kitchen chalkboard made from salvaged chalkboards throughout the building. Now with an elevator, the building is fully accessible and historic interior features such as the figural tiles at each doorway, a fireplace and other interior and exterior historic details were preserved. The former gym was repaired and now serves as a community event space.