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Historic former middle school gets second chance

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GINA R. HEINE
January 2, 2013

— Debris piles in former classrooms looked like bonfires ready to be lit.

Ceiling tiles, drywall and broken glass littered dark hallways missing light fixtures.

The hardwood floor in the gymnasium was a rolling ocean of warped and heaved wood.

It looked Tuesday like a tornado had blown through the old middle school in Brodhead. It has been empty since 1996 and gutted of anything of value, but a team of Madison developers hopes to restore the historic building.

The project will be complicated, warned Chris Jaye, president of Antach Management.

"I think we're, for lack of a better term, probably the last, best option to try to save this," he said.

Jaye is partnering with Movin' Out, a statewide non-profit organization, whose mission is to provide access to affordable housing for people with disabilities and their families.

They recently bought the 60,000-square-foot building with plans to create 24 residential units with some type of community space. Six of the units would be for residents with physical or mental disabilities.

"We're really happy that someone is taking an interest in it, and we'd like to see something develop with it," Mayor Doug Pinnow said. "We're working the best we can to make it work."

The three-story brick building at the corner of 10th Street and East 5th Avenue was built in about 1907. The east end was added in the 1940s.

"These projects, they're fun to work on," Jaye said, standing in the gym, lit only by sunshine from an open exterior door. "It's obviously a building that deserves to be preserved. It's important to the city. We know that there's a market here for what we're proposing."

Jaye is working with Dave Porterfield, a real estate developer with Movin' Out. They say they bring a team to get the job done: Jaye's experience in development and historical preservation and Movin' Out's mission to help fill a housing need.

The building failed to sell at an auction last year, and Scott Kalb of Milton bought it last fall. He told the Brodhead Independent Register he planned to build apartments on the top floor, businesses on the second floor and a conference center on the main floor.

Antach and Movin' Out recently bought the building from Kalb, who had gutted much of the building and stripped it of "anything of value," the new owners said.

Small reminders of the building's history remain: a few wall clocks on the floor, a log book of long distance calls from 1990 and a hand-drawn fire drill poster tacked above a door.

Chalkboards, lockers and other historical items are gone.

Jaye and Porterfield were in the building Tuesday as contractors toured and took photos to submit requests for quotations.

The project estimated at $6 million hinges on financing, and the new owners hope housing tax credits administered through the state will be a primary source. They should know in about six months whether they would receive the needed financing to make the project viable, Porterfield said.

The project already has received a $500,000 federal grant. Developers are waiting to hear about another grant, and they plan to request money from the city through an existing tax incremental financing district, which includes the property. The building also is eligible for historic tax credits, Porterfield said.

They hope to close on financing by fall 2013, with construction to take nine to 10 months. The building would be move-in ready by summer 2014, he said.

Jaye said he is sensitive and respectful to the residents who have wanted to see redevelopment for years. While he's excited, he's cautious because of the complicated financing and preservation needs.

"We're being very careful. We think we can do this. We're confident we can make this happen," Jaye said. "It requires a lot of pieces coming together."



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