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Apartments proposed at old nursing home

Life may soon be returning to the site of a former nursing home at 81 Birch St. in Abington. The building was home to the 99-bed Mildred Alford Nursing Home, which announced its closing in late 2006.

The now-vacant three-story brick building in the town’s central business district would house 30 one-bedroom rental apartments if developer Brophy & Phillips Co. Inc. gets the necessary approvals. The proposal goes before the Planning Board on July 1.

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“Ideally, I’d like to see a commercial use,” said board vice chairman Bruce Hughes, adding that a commercial use of the 1.1-acre property would boost tax revenue.

But, he added, “One hasn’t come forward, and people need to have a place to live.”

He said the apartments may attract young professionals who commute into Boston or empty-nesters looking to downsize.

“It does serve a couple of markets,” he said, adding that it is a reasonable use of the property.

“It would be a reuse and preservation of a nice old building,” Hughes said. “I don’t know what else you could do with that building.”

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Peter Vlaco, project manager at Brophy & Phillips, said the building is set up more for residences, having most recently been a nursing home.

If all goes well, Vlaco said, construction could begin within months and possibly be complete in approximately 18 months.

According to the project description provided to town officials, the building’s grand front entrance, built in the 1920s, would be preserved, with a handicapped-accessible entrance added on the south side of the building. Extensive renovations are slated for the interior, along with outdoor landscaping. The plan calls for 37 parking spaces.

Doug Ulwick, president of the Historical Society of Old Abington, said the building was originally the offices of the Lewis A. Crossett Shoe Co. He said it has also served temporarily as a high school and an elementary school, as well as offices of New England Art Publishers Inc., which maintains its manufacturing building across the street. The company prints holiday cards and invitations. Ulwick said for years the town used the vaults in the basement of the building to keep town records.

Ken Evans, executive vice president of New Art Publishers Inc., said it would be nice to see development of the vacant property. He said he expects town officials would ensure that there is adequate parking for the project. And for people considering living in any apartments there, he said, they may want to take into account the sounds of the trains going by.

The property is adjacent to the MBTA commuter rail line, though there is not a stop there.

Brophy & Phillips, of Brockton, was also the developer of Bedford Woods, 192 townhouse units off Bedford Street.

Jean Lang can be reached at jeanmcmillanlang@gmail.com.

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