Architect chosen to study transforming old Portsmouth school into workforce housing

10/13/2005


By: Michael Goot
Date: Thursday, Oct 13, 2005
Publication: Foster's Daily Democrat

PORTSMOUTH- DeStefano Architects has been selected to do a study of what it might take to transform the vision of workforce housing at the old Lafayette School into a reality.

The Portsmouth Housing Authority Board of Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously voted to select the local architectural firm to flesh out a concept to convert the long-vacant building into between eight and 12 units of workforce housing.

About a year ago, Executive Director George Robinson had first broached the idea of converting the building with the City Council, which seemed interested but needed to have more information. The 14,000-square-foot building has not been used as a school since 1978 and has been vacant since the Community Child Care Center moved out in 1997.

Robinson sent out a request for proposals and eight firms from as far away as Manchester and Newburyport, Mass., responded. He and Special Projects Director Ted Connors evaluated each of the proposals on a variety of factors such as cost and quality of the proposal.

DeStefano's local ties and proven track record were factors in the decision by the commission. Robinson said the firm had done some previous work for the authority in coming up with some preliminary designs for the renovation of Wamesit Place apartments.

Connors also said DeStefano was also to provide some last-minute help when they had some questions about Americans With Disabilities Act compliance.

The Rev. Angelo Pappas, who is on the board, said he felt very strongly about choosing a local firm.

Commissioner Anita Freedman said she agreed.

"I really and truly feel we want to deal with local people because they care about us," she said.

Chairwoman Ruth Griffin said she knows DeStefano Architects has a lot of experience because she has seen their architects go before many of the land use boards on a variety of projects.

Among the projects DeStefano Architects has worked on include the Hilton Garden Inn and the Porter Street Townhouses.

The cost of DeStefano's proposal is $11,620, which was not the lowest bid.

"We don't have to take the low bidder. We can do it (based) on professional ability," Connors said.

The other two finalists were Dennis Mires Architects of Manchester and TMS Architects of Portsmouth.

Robinson said DeStefano Architects will have 30 to 45 days to complete drawings, floor plans and an estimate of what the work could cost. Then, they will come back and present the materials to the board. If it elects to proceed, he would then to go back to the City Council to see if the building can be leased to the housing authority.

Robinson has said previously necessary improvements would include installing new windows and modern doors, cleaning and repairing the brick, replacing the roof, painting and installing a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. Costs of the project had been initially pegged upwards of $1.6 million.

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