Saturday, June 14, 2003

Old school makes way for homes

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] A shovel roots through the debris of the former Maple Park School in Middletown on Friday.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
MIDDLETOWN - By year's end, two-story homes will replace an eyesore adjacent to Maple Park.

Demolition of the former Maple Park School began this week and will continue for another month. City officials have also arranged to have another former Middletown school, the old Amanda School, torn down. Work was delayed this week when crews found asbestos.

"We're thrilled they're coming down,'' said Middletown Vice Mayor Nancy Nix. "There're a lot of blighted buildings in Middletown. We wish there was enough money to take care of (them) all."

Amanda, in particular, was troublesome because the roof collapsed a year ago and city officials found evidence of vagrants living there despite its dangerous condition, said Barbara Castells, Middletown's chief building official. When out-of-town property owners failed to address the issues after being notified, the city ordered the structure torn down.

The razings are the latest in a series that began last fall when the Middletown Board of Education paid to have Oneida Elementary, built in 1953, torn down after it closed in June 2002. Jefferson Elementary, which closed last week, will be razed next month.

"Part of why we're doing this right away is because of what happened with Maple Park and Amanda after we sold them,'' said Edmund Pokora, school treasurer. "This facility (Jefferson) is just old. We did not want to leave it standing empty. There were air quality and structural issues. "

The oldest of the four, Amanda, was built in 1860 and was closed in 1981, said Joe DiStaola, the schools' business affairs director. Maple Park and Jefferson were built in 1912. Maple Park closed in 1974 and has been sitting empty on Illinois Avenue ever since.

Soon, it will become home to Maplewood Park Square, a neighborhood of 17 single-family homes of 1,700 to 1,800 square feet that will surround the park.

The Hamilton-based, nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services Inc. is partnering with Middletown to develop the project.

Two homes in the $4 million project will be built as soon as the site is cleared and will serve as models, said Lorie Batdorf, NHS director of development.

Seven more will be finished by the end of December. Phase II includes eight homes that should be built by the fall 2004.

The three- and four-bedroom homes will be priced from $90,000 to $150,000 depending on features selected.

Anyone interested in purchasing a home should contact NHS at 737-9301.

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