Last week brought the first day of school, and who can ever forget that exciting time in their own lives? My first day of kindergarten at Washington School, 300 E. Myrtle St., felt like the cusp of adulthood. Yes, I was fully aware of the significance of starting my education, which would include such lofty lessons as learning to weave a potholder. Miss Brown assured all of us we could do that and much more. Six more years at Washington would fol- low, so that grand white fortress of learning always held a place in my heart and I was sad when it closed in 2012. But wait! Big trucks have pulled up to her doors. Men in hard hats are there. Windows are open and lights are on. Dumpsters and a porta-potty are on the playground. Welcome to the future home of Washing- ton Historic Residences, a 23-unit home for adults 55 and older. After taking on the building soon after its retirement as a school, the Cohen-Esrey Development Group, LLC, which is behind the beautiful Eighth and Main apartment building, finally began the Washington project at the end of May. Completion is anticipated by summer 2019. Since construction began, workers have cleaned out the building, nearly completed demolition of some walls and ceilings, and begun drilling into the floor for future pipes and electrical service. Framing of new walls for apartments on the second floor is under way, and construction is said to be on schedule. Jon Atlas, Overland Park, vice president of development for Cohen-Esrey, gave me an update on the work and described some of the unique, history-preserving features of the $5.5 million project. He said it will be similar to Eighth and Main, known as the old Union Implement building, in that many of the unique historic features of the school building will be preserved. “However, because of the layout of the Washington school building, there will be some differences, too, includ- ing larger hallways, higher ceilings, and more common space,” Atlas said. “The original gym and stage of the school will be preserved, as will many of the unique features of the classrooms, including the original chalkboards where available,” Atlas explained. “We are adding an elevator to make the building accessible. We are also anticipating adding solar panels to the roof to make the building more energy efficient.” The exterior will remain as is, “true to its historic nature,” he said. “We aren’t modify- ing the exterior of the building other than cleaning it up.” Serving as general contractor for the proj- ect is Construction Technologies. SWD Architects also is involved. Financing sources include affordable housing tax credits from the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation, federal historic tax credits, Kansas state historic tax credits, and a grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka. Like Eighth and Main, all units will be income-restricted to those earning up to 60 percent of the area’s median income for Montgomery County. This number changes annually and is dependent on how many people are in a household. All units will be restricted to seniors 55 and older. “Cohen-Esrey has a long history of repurposing historic buildings into needed affordable housing to serve the needs of communities in Kansas and throughout the Midwest,” Atlas said. “We look forward to growing our presence in Independence!” Atlas will be the program speaker at the Sept. 14 membership luncheon of the Independence Historical Museum and Art Center.