Since school let out for the last time in the spring of 2005, St. Hedwig School in North Toledo’s Polish Village only has been used sporadically by community groups.
Now the community development corporation United North Inc. is floating a plan to purchase and convert the 1901 school into 41 apartments for low-income seniors. While the convent and two garages on the site would be demolished as part of the estimated $7 million project, the historic St. Hedwig Church and rectory would remain under the ownership of the Catholic Diocese of Toledo.
“I like the fact that we’re working with the Catholic Diocese and the neighborhood and preserving a historic building and creating senior housing,” said Terry Glazer, executive director of United North. “This is a great project.”
Toledo’s Plan Commission is scheduled to discuss the proposal when it meets at 2 p.m. today. Specifically, United North is seeking a major site plan review, a zoning change from “duplex district” to “multi dwelling residential,” and approval to vacate two alleys between Bronson Avenue and Dexter Street.
Plan commission staff have recommended the changes with some conditions. The overall concept, they say, is a good one for the Lagrange Street neighborhood.
“The proposed development will facilitate the preservation of a significant architectural landmark while offering housing that is compatible with the Urban Village concept,” planners wrote in a recommendation to the commission.
While the city’s approval is needed for the zoning issues, Mr. Glazer said the project also hinges on securing competitive federal low-income housing tax credits to provide the financing for construction.
United North is using such tax credits to build a 40-unit senior housing complex called Crane’s Landing at the site of the former Crane Elementary School in North Toledo. That development is nearly complete, Mr. Glazer said.
“That’s all new senior housing,” he said. “This one would be renovation with some new construction so it’s a little different. The school rooms are about 900 square feet so each classroom makes a perfect-size apartment for a senior.”
Under the plan, the school would be converted to 23 apartments on three floors with the top floor used as a community recreation room. A walkway would be built to connect the building to a new three-story structure that would contain 18 units for a total of 41 apartments. The parking lot also would be reconfigured to accommodate 63 parking spaces.
Tearing down the 1900 convent would affect Cherry Street Mission Ministries, which leases the building for a 27-bed women’s shelter called the Oaks. Dan Rogers, Cherry Street’s president and chief executive officer, said his organization opened the shelter in 2009 as a temporary solution to a sudden rise in the number of women seeking shelter.
“We never saw that as a long-term solution for us,” he said, adding that he is “good with” United North’s plan.
Mr. Glazer said that even if the senior housing project is approved for tax credits on its first application, construction likely would not begin before 2014, giving Cherry Street ample time to find another shelter location.
The Rev. Joseph Poggemeyer, pastor of the combined Sts. Adalbert and Hedwig Parish, could not be reached Wednesday, but diocesan officials say they like the plan.
“We are supportive of proceeding with the plan because we see this as positive and good for the local community," said the Rev. Monte J. Hoyles, chancellor.
St. Hedwig and nearby St. Adalbert parishes were merged in 2010. St. Hedwig Church, which was built in 1891, now only is used for special services, such as weddings and funerals, said Sally Oberski, spokesman for the diocese.
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