Chapin School — Veterans’ Housing Renovation

Chicopee, MA

Western Builders’ expertise proved instrumental in converting the vacant historic Chapin Elementary School in Chicopee, MA into housing for veterans, a project spearheaded by the private nonprofit Soldier On. Completed in June 2016, the building now provides housing for formerly homeless Veterans. Western Builders collaborated with both O’Connell Development Group and Dietz & Company Architects throughout the project’s cost estimate and value engineering stages.

The 6.5 million dollar renovation transformed the school into 43 single-bedroom apartments which tastefully incorporate a number of the building’s unique elements—including the classroom doors, transoms, and slate chalkboards—as well as replicating its distinctive trim details and hallway murals. (Continued below)

Originally designed in 1897, the school was last remodeled in 1912 with the construction of its north and south additions. The 2015–16 conversion to housing called for reinforcing and stabilizing the existing framing with the latest engineered wood products, making it possible to preserve the distinctive old growth timber.

One of the most significant challenges of the reconstruction involved retaining the exterior aesthetic of the building’s eight massive chimneys while modifying their interiors to create additional living space. Together with the project architect and structural engineer, Western devised a demolition plan that met the needs of Soldier On and now complies with regulations set forth by the National Register of Historic Places. Six of the chimneys have been dismantled and replaced with steel towers erected from the basement to the attic, and the salvaged brick was used to build replica chimney tops above the roof.

In addition to the chimney work, the exterior restoration entailed complete repointing of the brick walls and replacement of signature eave, fascia, and frieze details with custom-milled components.

The finished apartment units, three of which are wheelchair accessible, comprise a limited equity cooperative in which the veteran residents were granted long-term leases and ownership interests. Western Builders is proud to play a part in bringing this innovative, quality veteran housing option to fruition on budget. Chapin opened for  occupancy in the spring of 2016.