Residents could be moving into new affordable senior apartments as early as September, the project’s developer said Wednesday during an official groundbreaking.

Woodco Inc. President Dolph K. Woodman told those in attendance the project began about three years before. He said the market study for Enid was one of the best his company had ever seen.

Woodman thanked those in attendance and those who have supported the project since it began, including officials with Enid Public Schools, city of Enid and Enid Regional Development Alliance.

“Lisa (Powell) was the first person I met here in town,” Woodman said of the ERDA associate director. “She gave me the names of everyone I needed to talk to.”

Woodman also acknowledged EPS for signing over the former Harrison Elementary School, 212 W. Birch, and allowing construction to begin and the city for its support throughout the process.

“We had one of the best market studies of any of our projects. It should lease up super fast,” Woodman said. “We’re hoping to be done, start leasing units in September, October.”

He said studies show there is a “huge need” in Enid for housing.

The project includes converting the former school into 16 units of apartments, with an additional two units converted in a portion of the school’s gym. Another 18 units will be constructed to the east of the school building.

“It is our pleasure to be able to transfer this building to a new purpose, to provide affordable housing for senior citizens,” said Karl White, EPS chief financial officer.

“We had classes here for a number of years, and the property has sat empty here for a number of years,” he said. “Our experience has been that if we don’t transfer it to someone else and repurpose it, it becomes a real hazard. We’re very pleased that this will have a new purpose for the public good.”

“Schools are such an important part of any community,” said Rachel Nugent, Rosin Preservation senior historic preservation specialist. “They are a gathering place. They’re a reflection of a city’s investment in the future. But, once they’ve outlived that educational purpose they become a burden to the city, to the neighborhood.

“So, finding a repurpose for these buildings is often a challenge. It takes a lot of vision, a lot of creativity to take these unique features of the classrooms with their chalkboards and wide corridors and to make that work again,” she said. “In order to take advantage of the historical tax credits, this building is now listed in the national register, which is an honor.”

Nugent said having the building named to the National Register of Historic Places ensured the project underwent scrutiny at all levels of review.

“It takes a lot of creatively to make these projects work,” she said.

Story provided by:  Enid News & Eagle

Written by:  Cass Rains