Moving forward

Erie developer Tom Kennedy stands in the former auditorium of the old Meadville Junior High School. Kennedy is heading up the $4 million endeavor to convert the former school into offices and apartments.

Demolition is nearly complete and the building plans are off to the inspector in the Parkside Commons project.

Erie developer Tom Kennedy is heading up the $4 million endeavor to convert the former Meadville Junior High School into offices and 56 residential apartments.

Kennedy said the building has been cleared of most debris, and floor tile and boiler insulation that contained asbestos has been removed.

Now, about 10 laborers are working to dismantle and salvage massive old boilers and other equipment, clearing the way to allow construction to begin, according to Stephen Timko, construction manager for the builder, MGM Construction.

Though it’s rough and dirty work, “The building’s actually in great shape,” Timko said. “They knew how to build it right,” he said of the 1920s structure. “It’s moving along really well.”

The salvage work is expected to continue for a few weeks, Timko said, then work will focus on the former boys’ gym, which will be converted into about 3,000 square feet of space for the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s regional offices.

Kennedy said the department plans to take occupancy Oct. 1.

Moving along concurrently with that will be the installation of new windows with a divided-light, old-fashioned look, Timko said. The windows will cost $500,000 to $700,000, Kennedy said.

Then, there will be preliminary site preparation for additional parking on the south end of the building.

Kennedy also said a second commercial tenant, Voices for Independence, will have offices in the building. The agency will get it rent-free in exchange for providing support services, such as help finding jobs, for tenants with disabilities.

The girls’ gym and most of the classrooms will be apartments. The building will also have two elevators, one each for the commercial and residential areas, he said.

Kennedy said the only area for which a concept or design hasn’t been done is the former auditorium, an expansive space with arched plaster ceilings and wood paneling.

Kennedy hopes to get building permits next week to allow the construction to go ahead.

Apartment construction will go forward this fall and is scheduled to be ready for leasing by spring. He plans to have all the space rented by Dec. 31, 2007.

The apartments will include 43 one-bedroom units of around 650 square feet each and 13 two-bedroom units of 750 to 800 square feet each.

There are no subsidies or age restrictions for apartment tenants, but a dozen single-bedroom units will be earmarked for low-income residents.

“This is a great project,” Timko said. “I’m glad something’s going to happen with it.”

Gary Johnson can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at

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