The Grayson County Commissioners Court unanimously agreed to return ownership of the Sherman Independent School District’s old administration building on Tuesday, allowing the district and its chosen developer to move forward on a nearly two-year-old project which aims to convert the facility into affordable housing for low-income seniors.

The $11.5 million project materialized in early 2016 and centers on the conversion of the district’s old administration building, located at 120 West King Street, into a housing complex for nearly 6 dozen seniors who meet specific income requirements. The project stalled last year when developer Sari and Company determined that the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs likely wouldn’t award the tax credits sought for the project.

“That deal did not come to fruition last year, but we’re back on the drawing board again this year,” Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said.

David Baca, who has been identified as a possible architect for the project, said the return to the drawing board was precipitated by favorable changes to the state’s point-based scoring system that determines which projects will get tax credits. Baca said those changes, coupled with a new designation for the old administration building, convinced the developers to ready the project once again and submit it for tax credit consideration in March 2018

“Some of the points that we can get are due to the fact that it’s a historic structure,” Baca said. “They did a historical analysis on it last year and got that report completed, so they feel very good about their scoring this year.”

But before Sherman ISD and its developer could move the project along any further, Grayson County Commissioners first had to consider returning the property deed to the district.

“According to the Texas Local Government Code, the county or whoever we donate that to can only use it for governmental purposes,” Sherman ISD Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Security Tyson Bennett said of the property. “So once it’s either not being used or it’s purported to sell, then it has to revert back to the school district to sell the property. Basically, only the school district can sell it.”

The commissioners discussed the matter in executive session before ultimately returning ownership to the district in a public vote.

“From the county’s perspective, we want to be good neighbors,” Magers said. “We want to help SISD and the city of Sherman. If we can repurpose that building it’s a win for everyone. There’s no downside to the taxpayers of Grayson County, there’s no downside to the county.”

The 63,000-square-foot Sherman ISD facility was built in 1916 and served as a high school and middle school before becoming the district’s administration building. The district moved into its current administrative headquarters on Loy Lake Road in 2011 and donated the property that year to Grayson County in exchange for use of the county’s voting machines and for comped parking lot improvements at Sherman High School.

Magers said the affordable housing project would bring Grayson County seniors a much-needed option as they look for residency in a market where property values and rent are on the rise. Bennett added that the project would also attract more traffic to the Downtown Sherman area, increase the city’s tax roll and infuse the district itself with some capital.

“You add those four together and you’ve got good reason for the project and good benefit to our community,” Bennett said.

Baca said developers are set to submit their tax credit application to the state in early March 2018 and awarded projects will be announced in either July or August.