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Inside this Repurposed Portland School Transformed Into Creative Condos

Many of Maine’s old mills have been repurposed into gorgeous brick apartment buildings through what’s known as “adaptive reuse,” a way to preserve vacant historical buildings through creative remodels. But we’re taking a tour inside a different kind of repurposed space: the former Nathan Clifford Elementary School in Portland’s Oakdale neighborhood. Now the Nathan Clifford Residences, the building is a stunning achievement that preserved the Classical Revival architecture with 22 new residential units. The largest unit in the building is for sale, a light-filled corner unit with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.

Located on Falmouth Street in Portland’s Oakdale neighborhood, the Nathan Clifford School was originally built in 1907 and designed by acclaimed Maine-based architect John Calvin Stevens. The iconic 44,000-square-foot Classical Revival building is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

“John Calvin Stevens contributed so many gorgeous buildings to Portland’s built environment, and in my opinion, this one is special even by his lofty standards,” says Ryan FitzGerald, the Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty agent representing the sellers of Unit 001 in the Nathan Clifford Residences. “When the school was built in 1907 it was considered ‘state of the art,’ mostly because it was wired for electricity, but also for its wind and fire safety standards. It was also built to be grand. The hallways and stairways are wide, the ceilings are high, and the windows are plentiful and enormous.”

The Nathan Clifford Elementary School closed in 2011 and sat vacant until it was sold in 2013 to Maine-based Developers Collaborative, known for transforming vacant schools and historic buildings throughout the state into vibrant residences, including affordable housing, market-rate housing, and senior housing. The Nathan Clifford Residences were completed in 2015 and received an Honor Award from Maine Preservation, followed by a 2016 Preservation Award from Greater Portland Landmarks.

Maine Home + Design highlighted the transformation of the Nathan Clifford Residences in its June 2019 issue:

To reshape the interior, [Kevin Bunker, cofounder of Developers Collaborative] turned to architect David Lloyd of Archetype Architects, who created 22 distinctive apartments: 15 two-bedroom units, 5 three-bedroom units, and 2 one-bedroom units, including the Stage Unit, an open-plan studio on the former auditorium stage. Elements such as chalkboards, built-in bookcases with glass doors, and the fireplaces that were in the former principal’s office and teachers’ room were left in place. A mural of Robin Hood drawn in chalk was preserved and framed behind glass and is installed in the first-floor hallway. (Two other murals, painted in 1940 as a Works Progress Administration project by artist Ralph Frizzell, had been previously restored and installed in the Ocean Avenue School.)

Construction, which took nearly a year, included making significant repairs to the masonry, replacing 116 aluminum windows with energy-efficient wooden windows, and creating a large fitness room, a communal meeting space/library, and storage in the basement. There are also two guest suites on the first floor available for residents to rent as needed. “When you’re building new, you have to have a use for every square foot,” says Bunker. “In this building, we knew we could build only 22 units and we had 45,000 square feet, which left a lot of space for amenities.”

The 18,400 square feet of common area and dedicated space for extra amenities creates a truly high-end experience for the residents of the building.

“The gym is huge and well-equipped. The bike storage makes getting in and out of town on a bike much more convenient than at most condo buildings. The spacious library and event space, as well as the outdoor gazebo and grill area, can be reserved for private events with the convenient online owner portal,” explains FitzGerald. “The building even features two guest suites that can be reserved through the online portal. This extra amenity is something I’ve never seen before, but offers a great and private option for guests of residents, at a reasonable fee of $75 per night.”

“My client loved the communal gardens,” FitzGerald adds. “She shared a plot with her friend in the building.” The development also preserved a small field behind the school, which is now a public park with a playground.

172 Falmouth Street, Unit 001, Portland, Maine

Offered at $660,000
Represented by Ryan FitzGerald

“The Nathan Clifford Residences are a compelling option for a lot of folks interested in living in Portland,” says FitzGerald. “Being just off the peninsula, it has a slightly quieter, more spacious, and residential feeling than the peninsula, but is just a couple blocks from USM and walking distance to downtown Portland and all that it has to offer. It’s a great option for anyone who has an appreciation for historic architecture, but who doesn’t want to have to maintain an old house themselves.”

Unit 001 has an open floor plan with wood floors throughout and original exposed brick from the building’s days as an elementary school. The light-filled corner unit has windows on three sides, and the stunning eat-in kitchen has cherry cabinetry, granite countertops, and stainless appliances.

The primary bedroom features a gorgeous barrel vault ceiling, large walk-in closets, and a full bath with a tiled shower. As the largest unit in the building, the condo has three spacious bedrooms and two dedicated parking spaces.

To learn more about this condominium at the Nathan Clifford Residences and its many communal amenities, contact listing agent Ryan FitzGerald at 207.317.2354 or by email at rfitzgerald@legacysir.com.

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