It’s a totally different take on “home schooling.”
A 1920s-era school in Ames, Iowa that is on the National Register of Historic Places recently reopened as luxury condominiums that retain many of the classroom elements – and much of the charm – of the original structure.
Roosevelt Elementary School, which closed in 2005, was purchased by local real estate developer Dean Jensen. After several years of proposals for what to do with the property, the vision for The Roosevelt was approved and the nearly fully occupied building celebrated its grand opening last month.
The front of The Roosevelt. (Credit: RES Development Inc.)
“Adaptive reuse is what I’m interested in,” Jensen told Yahoo. “Most people just mow them under and get rid of [old buildings] and start over from new parts. I want to save and try to keep it as part of the lasting mark of that building, if possible.”
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The 1923 property includes 20 condo units in the former school, a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments with three or four baths. They range in size from 950 square feet to about 2,100 square feet and sold for between $169,000 and $345,000. A half-acre property, formerly a playground, was donated to the city for use as a new park, Jensen said.
The property’s large windows were incorporated into the design of the condominiums. (Credit: RES Development Inc.)
The south façade of the building was the most preserved component. Windows were kept the same size and the rest is mostly original, though overall the project kept a preservation rather than actual restoration perspective. “We brought honest elements back to the building – doors, windows and balconies that were period-sensitive.”
An atrium was created and an enclosed garage was added. “From a glance, you look at the project and say it’s a pretty integrated adaptive reuse. It’s very clear that it is no longer a school. But to allow for reuse of the next 50 to 100 years, the work we did to it was honest, was sensitive, was really pushing toward preservation as best as possible without full restoration.”
Inside, the building retains its original footprint but includes all new wiring, plumbing and heating – including geothermal elements that allow owners to get energy tax credits. All interior staircases were retained, restored and reopened from behind drywall. Also revealed were columns, beams, concrete and masonry, which were incorporated in the units and common areas.
Original stairways and brick were exposed and original door jambs were used. Columns were also made part of the design. (Credit: RES Development Inc.)
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Among the items “rescued” from the school were original cabinets, teacher workstations, chalkboards and ceramic murals that were either preserved in place or moved inside units and hallways. All of the door jambs and common spaces were made of reused wood “so there’s a lot of character that we tried to bring back,” Jensen said.
The original light fixtures were matched with similar-looking new ones. The large windows in the school and reclaimed attic space allowed for some units to have two-level lofts.
Several units feature two-level living spaces. (Credit: RES Development Inc.)
Some features were rescued from other sites, including reclaimed skylights from a to-be-demolished school in Minneapolis that transfer light into bedrooms. “We think it worked because it was authentic,” Jensen said, “and the glass that we used was already for a skylight so it was really quite beautiful.”
Recycled buffets are in all of the units as well as some recycled fireplace mantels rescued from banks. “Because they’re all period 1920s-style it helped to influence the design,” Jensen said.
Rescued vintage fireplaces and buffets were built into units. (Credit: RES Development Inc.)
The response from the community has been supportive. “We had four public open houses and had well over 1,000 people per open house, which if you know Ames, Iowa, that’s a lot of people in a two-hour span. We literally had to shut lights off and have hallway monitors to keep people going in the same direction.”
A mix of “young singles through empty-nesters” is moving into The Roosevelt. “It’s a cross-section of Ames, Iowa,” he said, adding that its location close to downtown and Iowa State University was also popular. “The approach we took seems to be quite successful.”
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