Central School Re-Purposing Project Update
September 2, 2020
The historic Central School sandstone building is still waiting patiently in Roundup for its makeover. Developer Randy Hafer said last week that he has still been diligently working on the development project that will transform the school into quality residential apartments. When he heard nearly a year ago about a low interest federal housing loan that would be a good fit for the project, he decided to apply to fill in a piece of the financing necessary to complete the project. The loan will replace an anticipated higher interest loan from a bank. As with most federal programs, the application process has been lengthy and complex, with requests for additional information about the project coming several times a month from the agency responsible for approving the long-term loan. The good news is that with each response from Hafer’s patient staff, approval is one step closer. There have been no deal-breaker issues.
Hafer also lamented the COVID-19 pandemic burdens on his staff and on government agencies. Office staffing at all levels has suffered, and business proceeds at a molasses-like pace. The loan will be well worth the wait. It will significantly reduce interest costs over its 40-year life, and will be assumable by a buyer should the building someday sell.
The loan allows for the process of selling historic preservation tax credits to raise additional development dollars, and the expectation is
that once the economy rebounds from pandemic constraints, businesses or individuals will be in the market for tax credits. All the private partners holding interests in the project are still on board, with two remaining shares available for purchase.
All the engineering work on the building has been completed, and the design is ready to be submitted to the state for building permits. Because there is a deadline for completion once the permits have been issued, Hafer is waiting until all financing is in place before applying. A contractor is just waiting for the go-ahead to begin looking for local subcontractors interested in working on the project. Once the contractors begin applying hammers, the build time will be about 8 months. Interior work can proceed through the winter because the building is weather-tight. An energy-efficiency LEED certification (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) will be sought as construction begins, and the building should easily qualify for a
Platinum rating. Utility costs for apartment residents will be minimal.
Agreements are in place for Hafer to transfer ownership of part of the south portion of the school lot to the City of Roundup and Musselshell County. Surveying of the splits will begin once the exterior work on the building has been completed. That way, there will be no problems with sidewalk and landscaping locations, and surveyors won’t have to contend with contractor equipment and movement around the building. A plan for playground renovation will be presented to the City and volunteers interested in raising funds to fulfill the plan after the surveys are complete and the land transfer accomplished.
Hafer apologized for not coming to Roundup more often to keep residents informed, but said he is as excited as ever about the project. There is a definite need for affordable high quality apartments here to house schoolteachers, hospital staff, and retired residents looking for low-maintenance housing that is right next door to Senior Services. The project will be a boost to the City, County, and school tax base, as
well as a beautiful visible reminder of Roundup’s history.