The head of the Warren Housing Authority has eyes on transforming the former Our Lady of Fatima high school property into housing, but any re-use of the old school is years off — if it ever comes to that.
Still, authority executive director Carol Anne Costa said the old Catholic high school would be a perfect location to expand Warren’s affordable housing options, be it senior or disabled care, or low to moderate income housing.
The property has been on the market since 2012, ever since its owners, the Sisters of St. Dorothy, decided to close the school amid declining enrollment and rising costs. At last check, it was being offered for $5.9 million.
“I drive by every morning on the way to work and I just think it would be wonderful,” Ms. Costa said. “Really, if where we are is an onion, we’d be at the outer skin now. But it has been discussed.”
Her plan would be to turn the old school and its many acres into some form of publicly-administered or subsidized housing. With its waterfront location, many acres of fields and other amenities, the property could be a prime place for apartments, mixed use, and a place for public gatherings, recreation and the like. Exactly what form the housing would take, though, is unknown.
Currently, the housing authority manages 153 senior housing units at Kickemuit Village and distributes 204 housing choice vouchers around town; enrollment into the voucher program is closed, and the waiting list for Kickemuit Village is three to six years. Despite the overwhelming need for housing, the authority is “pretty pigeonholed” with respect to funding sources, she said.
Under its current structure the authority would likely not be able to find the funding needed to purchase and build affordable housing units at the old school. But in December, the authority’s board passed a resolution to support the creation of a new non-profit entity that would be able to look further afield for new funding sources.
Once the non-profit gets up and running, Ms. Costa said, Warren would be in a better position to seek new money.
“It expands granting opportunities,” she said. “It gives us the opportunity to look for other opportunities and partners.”
The next step? See through the establishment of the new non-profit, look for funding sources for the Fatima school, and see what happens.
“I’ve spoken to the Sisters,” she said. “And I think they were appreciative as we both have kind of the same mission” — to help those in need.
Ms. Costa has been on the job about three months. The former executive director, she said, “did an excellent job stewarding” the housing authority for many years. And the board’s chairman, Frank Manzi, has been enthusiastic to her vision for the Fatima school property.
“I’m glad, frankly, that the commissioners share the desire to push the authority forward.”