Built in 1930, the Amasa Stone House at 975 East Boulevard was a "home for aged women" with a history dating back to 1877
. Ironically, this place designed for people near the end of life is transforming into a place for little people just starting out in life, the Stonebrook Montessori Charter School
Renovations on the 40,000-square-foot structure in the historic East Boulevard neighborhood
began in summer 2014 after Montessori Development Partnerships (MDP) purchased the building. MDP president Debbie Guren hopes to welcome as many as 20 three- and four-year-olds to the school this winter for a pilot program.
"We have interest from over 30 families," says Guren.
The school will formally open in fall of 2015 with slots for 100 three- to seven-year-olds, and then add a grade per year to eventually cater to 300 kids up to age 15 by 2020. Guren estimates the facility will have 30 to 40 employees by then.
The three-phase construction schedule reflects the enrollment plan. The Krueger Group
is proceeding with the work and has completed what project manager Daniel Krueger calls "disassembly," a process by which they peel back what exists to expose the "bones" of a facility.
"It was kind of like a hotel," says Krueger, noting the long halls with individual rooms and private baths. There were even suites outfitted with small kitchens. "We gutted the interior to the walls." The crew kept architectural points of interest such as fireplaces intact.
"It's built like a tank," adds Guren, noting that Samuel Mather oversaw the original construction on the structure and named it after his father-in-law, Amasa Stone
. "It's so well built and so well designed—just as the Mathers would build something. To have that history is amazing."
Phase one, currently underway, focuses on the main floor. The upper level will be completed in phase two, and phase three will unfold on the lower level. The first part of phase one, a kitchen and a community room, will be complete this winter for the pilot program. The entire project is slated for completion in 2016, although progress depends on funding.
Thus far, MDP has raised more than $3 million of their $6.23 million goal, which has facilitated the purchase of the building, renovation, furnishings and operational funding for the first five years.
"We're almost halfway to our goal in less than a year," says an optimistic Guren.
While charter certification from the state and municipal entities is pending, the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation
formally agreed to act as the school's sponsor, a mandatory and important step in the process. Enrollment will be open first to Cleveland residents, then inner-ring suburbs, then other Ohio residents.
"We're pretty sure we'll be able to fill up," says Guren.
Long-time senior living advocates McGregor
last operated the facility, which went dark in 2002. McGregor eventually gifted it to the Northeast Neighborhood Development Corporation, with loans for maintenance and expenses. The property transferred to the Famicos Foundation
when NNDC closed. Montessori Development Partnerships purchased the structure for $550,000, a substantial reduction on the property's valuation of $1 million. McGregor forgave interest on the outstanding loans to enable Famicos to sell at the reduced price.
The Krueger Group has worked on several projects at area Montessori schools such as Ruffing (Rocky River), Hudson, Cleveland and the high school at University Circle.
"We enjoy these projects and we enjoy just how tangible they are," says Krueger, adding that he and three of his siblings are former Ruffing Montessori students.
There are more than 4,000 Montessori schools in North America, notes Guren, while only 10 percent of them are public.
"It's very important to me that we bring this to Cleveland and offer a free option for a complete Montessori program that's the top of the line."