The Day – New London’s former Catholic school reborn as affordable housing
New London – Barbara Petrizzi walked into what was once the basement of her old school at 42 Jay St. and looked around in amazement, remembering a time in the 1940s when nuns walked through her hallways and basement was a bit dingy.
The area now has light walls and new floors and no water on the floor as she remembers.
“Oh my God. I don’t believe it’s the same place,” she said during a visit Wednesday to the newly renovated 20-unit affordable housing complex known as St. Mary Place.
The former St. Mary Star of the Sea Elementary School has undergone a transformation over the past two years run by The Connection Inc., a statewide social services and community development agency that earned a 99-year lease of the Diocese of Norwich building. .
The group has partnered with the state Department of Housing, Connecticut Housing Finance Authority and other agencies to secure low income tax credits and historic rehabilitation tax credits to help fund the $ 7 million project that had been delayed for a year in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wednesday’s dedication ceremony brought together officials including Bishop Michael Cote, Bishop of Norwich, who offered a blessing to the residents who lived there.
âMay the Lord bless this institution and all who dwell therein,â he said.
There are four tenants so far in a building that offers a combination of rental prices for studio and one-bedroom units, ranging from market rate units in excess of $ 900 to fully subsidized units.
Five of the apartments are set aside for permanent supportive housing for people who cannot afford housing or who have recently become homeless.
Beth Hogan, director of government and community partnerships for The Connection and project manager, said The Connection provides case managers for some tenants.
While The Connection operates a residential sex offender treatment center at a Montville jail, the conditions of local zoning approvals in New London prevent them from renting to registered sex offenders. The building also returns to the fiscal roles of the city.
Mayor Michael Passero said the project would impact a city that strives to provide a mix of housing for residents, regardless of their financial situation.
âThe Connection is a key member of our social services team serving some of the most at risk and needy people in our community,â said Passero.
The partnership between The Connection and the church, said Passero, “has resulted in this tremendous adaptive reuse of a historic and architecturally significant school building.”
The brick school was built in the 1890s and closed in 2012 as a K-8 school due to declining enrollment and financial barriers associated with maintaining the building. The apartments have retained some of the original design elements with brick walls, tin ceilings and original parquet floors that have been refurbished.
Inside, Petrizzi was joined on Wednesday’s tour by Gail Long and Karla Marcille, who both graduated in 1950 and had nine children between them who all attended school.
The group remembered seeing the statue of Blessed Mary from what was once one of the school’s classrooms and is now an apartment. Long recalled that every spring schoolchildren hold a celebration to crown the statue of Mary.