By: John Mark Shaver, Staff Writer for The Fairmont News
Nearly 10 years after closing its doors to students, Miller Junior High School will soon cater to another crowd, functioning as affordable housing for senior citizens.
The massive project has been taken on by the Sadd Brothers, Steve and Mark, in participation with the Fairmont/Morgantown Housing Authority. The development aims to turn the school and its classrooms into 48 individual apartments, 26 two-bedroom and 22 one-bedroom, for the elderly.
"We're utilizing low income tax credits and state and federal historic tax credits," Steve Sadd, who, along with his brother Mark, oversees the project. "We've been working on this project for three years."
The school consolidated with Dunbar Middle School in 2008 to create West Fairmont Middle School, and Miller's building has been empty ever since.
For several months, construction professionals have been working nonstop to convert the school into its new role in the community. Walking down the halls, one can see glimpses of wall murals or classroom signs left over from the building's school days.
Constructed in 1910, Miller School was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 by Sadd Brothers LLC.
"Marion County Schools transferred the property originally to the Fairmont/Morgantown Housing Authority," Steve Sadd said. "They have been an integral part of making this whole thing happen, and I think they would tell you that had we not come up with this plan, it would've easily have cost them probably $400,000 or more to tear that building down."
The building's status as a historic place allows for developers to receive tax credits for rehabilitating the structure, a funding source that Sadd said helped make the project a possibility.
"This building would not get done without historic tax credits," Steve Sadd said. "Plain and simple, it wouldn't get done....We could not have conventionally financed this project and made work, not with the market conditions up here."
Mark Sadd spoke at last week's Revitalize Downtown forum, which helped raise awareness of the importance of raising the state's historic rehabilitation tax credit rate from 10 percent to 25 percent.
"[It's considered] one of the most successful tax credits in the history of the united States," Mark Sadd said. "We are a small town surrounded by, frankly, more economic states that have much more economic activity. The things that attract people to West Virginia are beauty and small-town life, and a lot of that deals with historic preservation. That's why this [program] is so important."
Mark Sadd and others on the panel said that, if the state tax credit rate raises, more developers will look into the doing business in West Virginia, Fairmont itself has three historic districts with 18 historic sites.
While Steve Sadd said that they're not quite ready to announce a completion date for the Miller School project, he said that progress is smooth and on schedule, and he is excited to transform the building into something great for the community.
"We're doing very well," Steve Sadd said. "It's been a win-win for everybody involved. Marion County School got rid of an abscess that was just costing them money, and the people of Marion County are going to get a premier, affordable housing project for seniors. This is going to be an extremely nice building, and people are going to be very pleased with the finished product."