Former Notre Dame High School sold to Tri-County CAP for $1


January 12, 2011
BERLIN — Tri-County CAP has purchased the former Notre Dame High School for one dollar. The building, which is located at 411 School Street, was supposed to be purchased by James Tamposi and Dana Willis under the auspices of Mt. Madison Investments LLC, but that deal fell through due to the cost of the work that needs to be done to get the building up to code.

Dori Ducharme of Tri-County CAP said that since Willis and Tamposi were private investors who do not have access to federal grants and other funding that a non-profit like Tri-County CAP does have access to, they could not tackle such a complicated project.

Tri-County CAP hopes to convert the property into housing for the elderly, similar to the Cornerstone on Main Street, which is another property they own. Cornerstone is supportive housing, which is different from assisted living. The supportive housing offered by Tri-County CAP provides links and referrals, upon requests from the tenants, to other programs that CAP runs, such as Senior Meals and help with transportation. Assisted living is different in that it provides supervision/assistance with activities of daily living and residents are monitored to ensure their health and well being.

At the moment, Tri-County CAP is not certain if the goal to turn the building into supportive housing will be accomplished because first Tri-County CAP needs to, according to Ducharme, "pursue financing and develop a workable model that complies with certain program specifications."

"This is an exciting project and will compliment the work being accomplished by the Neighborhood Revitalization Project," Ducharme said.

Andre Caron, the housing coordinator for the City of Berlin, said that originally there had been a $200,000 grant from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) to remove all the asbestos in the building, including the rubble in the gym where there had been a fire. The cost ended up being $320,000, so the City put $120,000 into the project.

The next step in the renovations, according to Caron, is to remove wood and plaster that have lead paint on them, as well as traces of PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl), a compound that has properties similar to dioxin and can cause endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity. The soils around the school that are contaminated with lead are also going to be removed. A grant for $400,000 has been approved from NHDES under the ARRA (stimulus funds) and this grant will be used to complete the work once the grant has been signed off on. The contract to do the work will be awarded in late February or early March and the goal is to have the work completed by June.

The amount of work that needs to be done to the building contributed to the low price of the sale. The sale came with certain conditions that Tri-County CAP agreed upon with the City. The conditions have not yet been written, but according to Ducharme, the resolution allows the City staff to work with Tri-County CAP and gives Tri-Couny CAP an agreed upon purchase price from where to start their business model.

Ducharme said the city looked at several factors in offering the building to Tri-County CAP. Among these were included the fact that the City recognizes that developing the property will be difficult, especially after reputable developers decided they could not make it work. The City recognizes that Tri-County CAP has the management to know how to assess the property, they may have access to funds that private developers may not, and Tri-County CAP has a record of accomplishment and will not start projects unless they know they can finish them.

Having the building may also be good for Tri-County CAP if they need to expand some of their programs. Already there has been heavy investment in the neighborhood, including the EPA clean up of the building and the demolition of dilapidated structures surrounding the building.

There is still no guarantee that Tri-County CAP will take the building and that decision will depend on the business plan they develop, as well as associated financing.

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