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OLD SCHOOL - Sacred Heart Open House

Peter Bass is still plodding through the last permitting stages with the Portland Planning Board, but that doesn't mean he can't get rolling on selling the eight condos for artists he's developing at the Sacred Heart School. Bass's development company Random Orbit won the nod from the city council in January to buy the circa 1920s school. His first tour of the place for prospective unit buyers will be this Monday, March 6, at 10 am. The second showing, for you jokers with tight schedules, will be Monday, March 13 at 4:30 pm. Just show up at the building on the corner of Sherman and Mellen streets to take a look around. He wants a big crowd so he doesn't have to do this too many times.

The Sacred Heart School is a kind of spooky at the moment, sure, but Bass plans to turn it into a little cluster of artistry. The now-vacant school, which Bass has rechristened the "Parkside Studios" to, he explains, "get away from the religious theme," will become eight condominium units priced affordably, with adjacent studio space in the basement, which gets a good amount of sunlight. Bass is waiting for the last of his city permits to start renovating the units, but he thinks they're in good in enough condition to imagine what they'll be like when they're finished. Units are priced according to Housing and Urban Development income standards and, Bass says, will cost around $135,000, although "the price isn't 100 percent set."

Units, including living and creating space, will cover about 1000 square feet. To move in, you have to prove to Bass and a small panel of as-yet-unidentied-artists that you too are of the artistic persuasion. If you ever want to sell, you also have to sell your condo to another low-income artist, which means you won't make milions off of your investment.

"It's kind of complicated," says Bass. "It's not an easy process. People have to get approved as an artist and then they have to get their income approved [for low-income status]. The input from the city was the only way I could consider this project. They've given me these requirements but they've also given me a subsidy by selling the building at the price they did."

Bass has developed other live/work spaces for artists locally, but none which require the housing remain affordable for artists forever and ever.

Bass says applications for the units, which are available here, will be accepted on a first come, first served basis.

On a related note, if anyone out there wants to design the fence around the garden at the Parkside Studios, Bass will supply up to 10,000 clams for its construction. All those clams could feed your family for a long, long time. It's a competitive process, and Bass is looking for Southern Maine artists with experience, demonstrated competency, and reliability - the usual. Wow him by sending a beautiful and compelling submission to his office by April 15. Drop him a line at pbass@maine.rr.com for submission guidelines.

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