Williston School Becoming Senior Housing | VideoEvan Kruegel | 11/27/2012
Affordable housing in Williston has become increasingly difficult to come by, and for seniors on fixed incomes, that often means having to move away.
"So many have had to leave town to go live with kids or try to find a house. Many of our friends are gone," said Lillian Miller, who attended Williston Junior High.
But there are projects in the works to allow fixed-income seniors to stay in town. City and state officials broke ground on one of those today: A $10.6 million renovation of the former Williston Junior High.
"This is a great asset to the community. It`s been used as a senior high school and a junior high school and now being converted over the next year into senior housing. Not only an underutilized building that will be brought back to life, but serving the community by serving those who have been here a long time," said project director Russell Kaney.
"Those that are the most difficult to house right now are those on fixed incomes, so any time we can see a project that`s targeted towards our elderly it`s really exciting for us," said Mike Anderson with NDHFA.
LaVern and Lillian Miller have lived in Williston for over 80 years. They attended the Williston Junior High in the early 1940`s, when the $270,000 building was the talk of the town.
"I come from a one room school out northwest of Williston, this was a very big building when I started as a freshman," LaVern said.
Even today, it`s still a decent sized building, and at 81 years old, the former school is a historical landmark. The windows will be replaced, but the rest of the exterior will remain unchanged, preserving the historical integrity of the old school.
"The building has been here a long time, since 1931, so it has good bones so to speak. Structurally a great building, but it`s going to have all the modern conveniences that seniors are going to come to appreciate," Kaney said.
"This building is well built. I had an uncle who worked on it and there`s a lot of cement and rebar in there, its very fire proof. If you go inside, you`ll see that it`s a very sturdy building," LaVern said.
For the Millers, it was an exciting day. Not only is their old school being preserved, but it`s becoming a place their peers can soon call home.
Construction will begin soon, and the complex is expected to be open by the end of next year.