Most KO students know about the brown house. You know, the one on Boulevard, behind Seaverns? This house, 1438 Boulevard, is owned by KO and is vacant. That seemed to be the extent of the average student’s knowledge of the house. What you may not know is KO does not only own that one house, it actually owns seven.
The diagram shows property owned by KO outlined in green.
KO bought each house one-by-one once the opportunity emerged. Five of these homes are situated on Boulevard, four of which are teachers’ residences. It’s no coincidence that these five are all adjacent to each other because the school deliberately acquired them through various purchases because of their location.
“The houses are key structures for the school to have for a couple of reasons,” Colleen Woerlen, director of Finance & Operations, said. “Firstly, they sit on the back entrance to the school, so we have maintenance vehicles coming in and out of that entrance very often. Also, it makes it better for neighbors, so we don’t interfere with them or get any complaints.”
In 2011, KO purchased the last house after it cropped up on the market. At that time, it was the only house in the Boulevard row that KO didn’t own. “So when the opportunity arose to buy it, it was imperative that we obtain that house,” Ms. Woerlen said. This house, the one sold in 2011, is 1438 Boulevard.
The houses’ primary purpose, other than for the structural reasons that Ms. Woerlen mentioned, is to house teachers. The houses are particularly useful to settle young teachers in the area, Ms. Woerlen explained. “It’s a hiring incentive to some of our new hires. Moving into the Hartford area has a high cost, and living on campus can be extraordinarily valuable for new teachers to the area.”
For example, English teacher Cameron Biondi lives in one of the houses and he said it helped persuade him to come to KO. “It’s very helpful,” he said. “I’m a teaching apprentice, and there are a lot of similar jobs at boarding schools. Part of the enticement [at boarding schools] is dorms, and day schools can’t do that. So part of my arrangement is living on campus, which is definitely a plus.”
While looking at the houses on Boulevard, there are still two more that we haven’t talked about for those of you with quick counting skills. On Outlook Avenue, KO owns two residences positioned next to campus. One, 111 Outlook Ave, is vacant, like the brown house. This house came into KO’s possession after the former KO facilities director, passed away, giving the residence to KO.
KO has never used the house for faculty housing because of its condition and required repairs, but the address does house electrical panels and utility boards for the fields that it overlooks. For example, the scoreboards and sprinkler system all rin through 111 Outlook in a central panel, marking it impossible to sell. “As we’re a landlocked school, it’s essential that we utilize as much property as possible,” Ms. Woerlen said.
The final house that KO owns is the Head of School’s house, which shares a driveway with 111 Outlook.
As for the future of the vacant houses, it’s difficult for the school to find a proper use for them. “We’ve been looking at refurbishing the brown house, to possibly make way for it to be used as a maintenance shed,” Director of Facilities Larry Marciano said, “but it’s hard to expand the footprint of the campus. The town is very restrictive about that.”
Mr. Marciano is referring to the complicated process of zoning classifications. Currently, the Boulevard houses are classified by the town as “Use Code 101,” which, according to the town, refers to a residential dwelling. It’s difficult for the school to make use of these vacant properties because the lot needs to be classified as “commercial” to be used for school functions. “Getting the lots reclassified takes a lot of time and money,” Mr. Larciano said.
However, that doesn’t mean that KO doesn’t have any plans for the vacant houses at all, it just means that it takes additional time and planning. “Any work on those houses would be a part of a larger beautification and enhancement project, which the board hasn’t decided on officially as of now.” Ms.Woerlen said. She mentioned that, if the maintenance shed were to be moved to the brown house, the current maintenance shed would be modified for other uses. “The first thing you see when you drive up to the school shouldn’t necessarily be that shed, but again, all plans are very tentative at this point,” she said.
Looking from an economic angle, KO actually pays property taxes on some of the houses and the lots. Usually, non-profits, like the school, are exempt from local property taxes, but not in this case. West Hartford, which collects the property taxes, says that those properties aren’t part of the school’s central mission as a non-profit, and since they collect rent from them, they are taxed. However, KO doesn’t pay property taxes on the two Outlook houses, since each serves the school’s central purpose.
Ms. Woerlen said that, despite the maintenance costs and property taxes, the houses are a worthy investment because they are valuable assets for drawing new teachers away from boarding schools. The homes provide a unique way for the school to draw talented educators from all over the state, and country.