Officials to celebrate restoration of Columbus School

Officials are scheduled to meet Wednesday to celebrate the restoration of the long-vacant historic Columbus School, which re-opened as an apartment building this month.

The school, also known as public school No. 99, was used as apartments in the 1980s. It lay vacant for about a decade before the Woda Group, Inc. approached the city about converting it to workforce housing, said Kevin Bell, senior vice president at the firm

The $13 million project, which started construction last year, was financed with about $11 million in federal historic tax credits and state funds, Bell said. The development includes 50 apartments for families with incomes up to 60 percent of the area median income, or $35,100 for one person, according to a release. Eight of the units are reserved for seniors and the disabled.

Almost half the apartments at the 2000 E. North Avenue building are already leased, with eight families moved in, Bell said. He said he believes the landmark status of the 123-year-old building — listed on the national register of historic places since 1979 — will help spur broader improvements in the South Clifton Park neighborhood.

"One of the things I try to look for is a site that not only will provide good housing, but can also help to revitalize the community that it's in," he said. "That was an important criteria here."

The Woda Group is a private national developer of subsidized housing, with three completed projects in Baltimore and several more in the works. Housing Services Alliance, Inc. is a co-owner of this building.

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