Peirce School sold!

Couple plan to convert it to a private residence
By Fran Gonzalez | Oct 31, 2019
Courtesy of: Michelle Lozuaway Large windows and high ceilings make for plenty of light in one of the classrooms at the former Peirce Elementary School. Michelle Lozuaway and husband Josh Lanahan closed on the building Oct. 31 and plan to make it their home.

Belfast — A New Hampshire couple have purchased the Peirce Elementary School with the intent of making the 104-year-old building their home.

Michelle Lozuaway and husband Josh Lanahan said they closed on the property today and would like to take some time to get to know the neighborhood and the town before deciding what kind of use would best be suited for the community.

The couple said they sold their house in Hampton Falls, on the New Hampshire seacoast, to move to Belfast.

"We have a lot of ideas," Lozuaway said in a phone interview Thursday. She did not want to share too many of the ideas under consideration, because "we're not sure what will stick."

Installing a green roof and solar panels and raising bees and chickens were some ideas Lozuaway rattled off, as well as tearing out some of the asphalt and putting in "green things."

The couple are relatively new to the area, having discovered Belfast while visiting Bar Harbor for a weekend getaway. "It was pretty unique," Lozuaway said, "and we decided to make an offer."

She admits only visiting Belfast twice, while Lanahan has been back three times. "We're really excited about the community," she said. "Being able to walk to the theater and the farmers market," and, in general, live a less hectic life.

In the short run, the couple plan to live on the second floor, building a kitchen, hooking up the water and expanding the "weird little bathroom." She said they do not intend to change the space because they like the "grand old design" which she likened to a New York City loft. "Peirce is spectacular because it hasn't been altered all that much," she said.

Lanahan and Lozuaway have three "grown-ish" sons and hope, when they are ready to settle down, their children will consider coming to live at the family compound. "Whether or not it happens, I don't know," she said.

The couple bought the former school for $275,000 and said they will need to invest "some serious coin to make it inhabitable."

In April, Seacoast online reported the couple sold two of their Portsmouth, New Hampshire, restaurants and wanted to simplify their lives.

“Josh’s brother died recently in a car accident, and I turned 55,” said Lozuaway. “It makes you look at life differently. Right after, we decided we needed to come up with an exit strategy. The restaurant business is not really conducive to retiring .... We were renovating our house and have just bought a cabin in Maine.”

The Peirce School was built in 1915 and operated as an elementary school until 2003, when School Administrative District 34 consolidated students from three small elementary schools in the newly constructed Capt. Albert W. Stevens School. Four years later, the city sold the building to William Ryan, who opened the Belfast Academy of Music. Ryan lost the building several years later by foreclosure to mortgage holder James McClelland.

Mark Crockett of Midcoast Development LLC bought the building and 3/4-acre lot at the corner of Church and Elm streets in 2013 for $220,000 at a public auction and began a marijuana caregiver growing operation there.

The property is currently assessed by the city at $360,000. In March, developers pulled the plug on a plan to convert the former school to apartments after many in the community objected. Nearby residents were concerned about renters with no ownership stake neglecting the property and bringing additional traffic and noise to the neighborhood.

The couple have done other rehab projects in the past and said this one does not seem as "desperate" as some. When asked if they would eventually flip the property, Lozuaway said, "If we like Belfast, we will be there forever."

Michelle Lozuaway and Josh Lanahan's dog, Zuzu, stands in front of the Peirce School building at the corner of Church and Elm streets. The couple bought the building Oct. 31 and plan to live in it. (Courtesy of: Michelle Lozuaway)
Josh Lanahan, co-owner of the Peirce School building, along with his wife, Michelle Lozuaway, stands at the blackboard in one of the rooms at the former school. The couple closed on the property Oct. 31. (Courtesy of: Michelle Lozuaway)
One of the classrooms at the Peirce School building. Michelle Lozuaway and her husband Josh Lanahan purchased the former school Oct. 31. (Courtesy of: Michelle Lozuaway)
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