HOPATCONG — The shuttered Hudson Maxim School will be converted to a group housing facility for developmentally-disabled individuals, according to an accepted proposal to the Hopatcong Borough Board of Education.
According to a letter of intent furnished to the New Jersey Herald by the district’s Superintendent Art DiBenedetto, Wish, NJ, Inc., a Maplewood-based entity, offered the district on Feb. 24, the same day as the board meeting, a $772,000 purchase price for the former school that includes a full cash offer, with no financing contingencies.
DiBenedetto said Friday he expects negotiations between the district and the organization to last approximately eight months, before the closing.
Wish NJ, according to its website, an acronym for “Wright Individualized Supports in Housing,” created by founder Keldrick Wright, provides group housing for developmentally-disabled individuals and teaches these individuals independent living skills.
DiBenedetto said that Wish NJ’s offer prevailed over another viable buyer, which proposed the construction of apartments within the former school building.
The 110-year-old Hudson Maxim School building, which was slated for closure at the end of the 2019 school year, closed ahead of schedule in January 2019, due to an issue within the building’s heating system that caused a leakage under the gymnasium’s cement floor. DiBenedetto described the school building in excellent condition otherwise.
In information provided to the district, Wish NJ said that it plans to provide state-of-the-art housing, which will accept a prospective resident’s income-based housing vouchers from the state. As part of its interaction with the community, Wish NJ has stated its residents would open and run businesses, such as a cafe or bakery. This type of business will foster the economic redevelopment within Hopatcong, according to the information provided, and will offer the Wish NJ residents employment opportunities that can help to integrate developmentally-disabled individuals within the community.
The Wish NJ proposal stated that within 10 days of the board’s acceptance of their offer, the organization would prepare a purchase and sale agreement, with the same terms offered in the letter. Per those terms, within three business days of Wish NJ’s attorney’s receipt of the agreement, $10,000 will be paid toward the purchase price. Three business days following the conclusion of the parties’ mutually-agreed “due diligence period,” the organization will pay $20,000 should Wish NJ agree to move forward. At the closing, which according to the letter will be within 180 days after the conclusion of the due diligence period, Wish NJ will pay the balance to the district of $742,000.
Contingencies in the contract include that it must receive approval from Hopatcong’s Land Use Board and the county for use as a low-income residential and recreational facility for special needs individuals and the staff assisting them. Wish NJ would also be responsible for furnishing parking for the staff and visitors to the home.
The district took an unexpected hit in the loss of state school aid, which DiBenedetto said doubled from what the district was initially told it would lose over a period of six years, from $880,000 to $1.7 million. But he said the funds received from the sale of Hudson Maxim School cannot be used to offset the district’s budget, and will instead assist with facilities’ upgrades.
DiBenedetto credited the Hopatcong Borough Council for its assistance in the process, by including the school within its redevelopment zone, which he said will provide a tax relief to the organization for five years. In 2019, the borough posted a redevelopment study on its website pertaining to inclusion of the Hudson Maxim School in that zone.
Jennifer Jean Miller can also be reached by phone at: 973-383-1230; on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/JMillerNJH and on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JMillerNJH.