Erie's new "Housing First" initiative, fueled by public and private support, has zeroed in on a location to develop new housing for the chronic homeless population in the city. 

Erie's Public Schools are poised to accept a bid from the new non-profit Build Community Development Corporation, to purchase the district administration building.  That includes the former Washington School building at 21st and Sassafras and the lots around it.

The bid of $490,500 is 90% of the appraised value of the property. Hamot Health Foundation is a key player in the "Build" initiative.

For about 25 years, the administration of Erie's Public Schools has been housed in the former Washington School.  The spaced chopped up, the offices spread out and not ideal.

But with a major investment from the new buyer, the building is about to offer new life to Erie's homeless population.

Charles "Boo" Hagerty, president of Hamot Health Foundation said the building and location check all the boxes to seek grant funding for the project.  "That is on bus routes, that it's in close proximity to grocery stores, close proximity to job opportunity, educational opportunities-- this neighborhood fits that so we're we're really good from that standpoint, and secondly it was available," Hagerty said.

Build community Development Corporation plans first to develop the former Washington school into 22 apartments for homeless people with wrap around services, then they'll take the vacant lot to the east and build a brand new building that will house 50 more homeless people.

"We believe it's time for Erie to kind of raise our hand and say let's do a better job of getting those 150 chronically homeless in a place of their own," Hagerty said.

Assistant superintendent Neal Brokman said the plans align with the district's vision for the community.  we wanted it to go to somebody that would make an impact on the community and I'm not sure we could have asked for a better cause. "When we knew that we couldn't use that building anymore because we kind of outgrew it, and was time to move into this one we wanted it to go to somebody that would make an impact on the community and I'm not sure we could have asked for a better cause," Brokman said.

The renovation of the former AHN medical building just down the block at 18th and Sassafras, that will become the district administration's new home, is well underway.  The administration said instead of renovating the old school for $13 million, the move is saving money.  "All in all, the purchase and the renovation of this building, it's closer to $8 million so...I know it sounds weird, but simply moving down the street and doing this renovation project is saving the taxpayers about $5 million," Brokman added.

The new space is being completely reframed for the district's purposes, and though it is a smaller building, through a more efficient layout, it will allow the district's 75-member administrative staff to collaborate better according to Brokman, and offer better access and parking for visiting families. "The two main departments that the public comes to see us for is our child accounting and our special education and so they'll have their own dedicated entrance on the other side close to the Country Fair so it'll be easier for the families to navigate."

The move to the new building is expected to take place by early October, giving way for Build Community Development Corporation to begin renovations to support the first 22 residents, on the way to 72 total when the new building is added. The Erie School board will act on the bid to buy the former school when members meet Wednesday evening.  Hagerty said if all goes well, the former school will be ready to go with apartments and wrap around support services a year from now, with the new building ready the following year.