Historic reuse at the heart of a small town
An unused high school building near the center of the small city of Paris, Illinois, might not seem like a place of opportunity at first glance. But when our client envisioned a redevelopment of the former school into apartments for low-income seniors, WJW was immediately drawn to the project’s potential both as adaptive reuse and historic preservation.
With graceful historic details, high ceilings, large windows and ample common areas in the form of the gymnasium and auditorium, the building offered inherent possibilities for housing design. As both the figurative and literal heart of the community — the high school had educated many generations of Parisians, and the building is sited in the city center — the project also brought with it a chance to create a substantial contribution to the continuity of the community.
Those assets came with substantial design challenges, however. Accessibility, energy efficiency and adapting the building’s unique footprint to housing units were initial hurdles, further complicated by the pursuit of both LIHTC and federal historic preservation tax credit funding programs. A design perspective that was focused on sensitivity to the building’s historic fabric from the outset helped secure those federal preservation credits, and made the project one of the first to be awarded credits under Illinois’ new state historic tax credit program as well. That additional layer of funding allowed for preservation of many of the building’s more intricate historic details, and thoughtful design brought forward new solutions and materials which bring the beloved building into the present and enhance the community around it.
Heidi recently shared insights about the renovation of the 100-year-old former high school building in an article in McKnight's Senior Living. Check it out!
As 2021 draws to a close, we wanted to look back on some of the major reasons to celebrate over the past year: the completion of many important WJW projects!
Heidi recently attended the Awards Ceremony as part of the project team for Tiger Senior Apartments, recipient of an Award for Adaptive Reuse!