The former Mexico High School at 15 Recreation Drive is being considered for an 18-unit apartment complex. Built in 1937, it is home to the Recreation Department, the town library and several businesses. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

MEXICO — A plan to create up to 18 one-bedroom apartments is proposed for the former Mexico High School at 15 Recreation Drive, home to the Recreation Department, town library and several businesses.

The project calls for six apartments on each of the three floors of the brick building.

Laura Reading, director of affordable housing for Developers Collaborative of Portland, met with selectmen Jan. 2, along with project manager Meg Robinson.

“We have a variety of commercial and residential projects throughout Maine,” Reading said, noting she has helped develop 615 new units of affordable housing in Maine, with another 234 in predevelopment.

She said they’d be looking to use historic tax credits as well as Maine Housing’s Rural Rental Program. “We’ve worked on historic adaptive reuse projects in the past. They’re always interesting projects to work on.”

In order to use credits, the 1937 building must be eligible to be on the National Register of Historic Places and essential features must be preserved, she said.

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The developer would want to have some kind of site control, Reading said, either a purchase and sale agreement or an option agreement, so they would feel comfortable spending money on some of the due diligence that would be required.

The next round of Maine Housing’s Rural Rental Program is expected to open in late summer or early fall, and one of the scoring criteria is typically having all approvals in place. If funding was successful, then generally the timeline would be looking to start construction next summer and completing it about a year after that.

Reading said if the Recreation Department wants to continue using the gym, which will be preserved anyway, it could either be looked at as a reduction in the acquisition price or be in the form of a lease agreement where it’s providing some rental income to the project.

Laura Reading, right, director of affordable housing for Developers Collaborative of Portland, and project manager Meg Robinson, left,  present an overview to selectmen Jan. 2 for an 18-unit housing project in the former Mexico High School at 15 Recreation Drive. Built in 1937, the three-story brick building is home to the Recreation Department, the town library and several businesses. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

Town Manager Rachel Welch-Day, who invited the women to attend the meeting to talk about the project, said the first step for the project is asking voters at the annual Town Meeting in June “to make sure they’ll even allow us to do that with that building.”

She said the development would create additional revenue for the town. “It will broaden the tax base a little bit. You’re not going to see your taxes go down hundreds of dollars, but it’s going to help, because it’s another business coming in. That’s what we need.”

Regarding renters in the building, Welch-Day said, “We’ve got plenty of room up at Meroby (Elementary School) for people that want to move. That place is huge.”

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The town is planning to relocate all its departments, except for highway, to the school after it closes when the new Mountain Valley Community School opens in the fall of 2025.

Reading is also leading another housing project in Rumford.

On Aug. 3, 2022, the Planning Board approved 4½-story apartment complex at 105 Hancock St. for people 55 years and older. At that time, Reading said occupancy was expected by August 2024. Now, an excavator sits on the cleared lot where three apartment buildings burned Feb. 9, 2020.

That complex is expected to include 33 one-bedroom apartments, an elevator, a community room, a kitchenette, a laundry room and a trash room.

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