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Medford

Pastor backs proposal for 18 condos at site of school

A real estate developer has proposed a $5.5 million plan to convert the former St. Francis of Assisi School building off the Fellsway into 18 chic condos, some with views of the Boston skyline.

“We’re urban guys,” said Ed Champy, a partner in Wayside Development LLC of Boston. “Medford is close enough to Boston that we really think of it as part of the city.”

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The St. Francis Condominiums would be one of the first conversions of a Catholic school property in Medford. Waypoint has signed a purchase and sale agreement for the school building and a parking lot on Fulton Street from the Archdiocese of Boston, Champy said.

He did not disclose the sale price. The school building and land is assessed at $3.9 million by the city of Medford, records show.

The condo project has the blessing of the Rev. Edward Doughty, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish.

“We will have less parking,” Doughty said in an interview. “But it comes down to a choice. We pay for a building that’s not being used, and have parking. Or we could [sell] the building and lose some parking.”

The school, which closed in 2010 because of dwindling enrollment, is bordered by St. Clare Road and Fulton Street. The project would build one 1-bedroom unit and eight two-bedroom units on the first and second floors. A half story would be added to the third floor to allow for nine town house-style condos, the only change planned for the exterior of the yellow brick school building.

Depending on size, each unit would be priced from $350,000 to $590,000, Champy said.

“All of the units will have high ceilings, which should give them a loft-style feeling,” said Champy. “The town houses will have their own decks, and you can view Boston from up there.”

The city’s Community Development Board approved a site plan review of the project in December. The board also recommended favorable action by the Board of Appeals.

The Board of Appeals held a public hearing on Jan. 28 on Waypoint’s request for zoning relief. A variance is required to allow a multi-unit development in an area zoned for single-family homes. The school building also does not comply with front and rear setback requirements adopted since the school opened in 1951.

The three-member appeals board now is mulling its decision. “It’s been a fair and thorough presentation tonight,” chairman Anthony Arena said at the conclusion of the 90-minute hearing.

Some residents questioned the impact the development would have on the densely packed neighborhood.

Abeeda Banu owns a home between the school and a former convent. “I have my house between two big buildings,” Banu said. “This is going to invade my privacy . . . The school was only [occupied] from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. but this [condominiums] is going to be 24-7.”

William Slattery, who lives on Fulton Street, said the loss of a church parking lot would force people attending Mass to park on the street. “The new construction is going to take away parking spaces” in the lot, he said.

But others said they support the new plan for an old school building. They cited neighborhood meetings with developers held over the past year.

“The company has been very diligent in addressing my concerns,” said Maria Tomeho-Palermino, a Fulton Street homeowner who lives next door to the school. “I understand more what they want to do there.”

“There’s been a lot of discussion,” said Anthony Loftus, who lives in an apartment complex on the Fellsway. “I think this is going to be good for the church and the community.”

Champy’s firm is proposing its first project in Medford. Waypoint now is developing a 40-unit apartment building in Boston’s Downtown Crossing. It also has built town houses in Somerville and homes in Gloucester and Rockport, Champy said.

“It’s a small project we’re proposing,” Champy said. “We’ve watched Medford closely. It’s a good city, with a strong housing market.”

Kathy McCabe can be reached at katherine.mccabe@
globe.com
. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.
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