The transformation of an abandoned school building

The Barrett Urban Luxury Apartments complex in Merion Village is a distinctive development for Columbus, framed within an abandoned school that now boasts 51 townhouse-style apartments inside and another 52 apartments built on the former playground. It is so distinctive, in fact, that there are few luxury apartments left in the $17 million rehab project at the site of the former Barrett Middle School.

The Barrett school, at 345 E. Deshler Ave., opened in 1898 as South High School. Influenced by classical Greek and Roman design, Barrett has 7- to 20-foot-high arched windows, massive curved openings and rooflines punctuated with towers and dormers.

Developer Casto rehabbed and restored the four-story building, preserving as much of the sandstone exterior and interior as possible. High tin ceilings, 16-foot-wide hallways with original Douglas fir floors, slate chalkboards, school lockers, red radiators (now decorative) and original hardwood floors were all restored. And all of the school's windows were replaced to match their original design.

Maintaining the historic structure of the school was important, but developers didn't skimp on adding contemporary amenities either. The building's townhomes include stainless steel, energy-efficient appliances and granite countertops. The new development also includes a library lounge.

The top floor, which was home to the original gymnasium with 24-foot ceilings, now features six two-story penthouse-style apartments. Developers kept the original wooden gym floor, including the court's basketball markings, says Hilary Marshall, Casto's marketing and public relations manager.

One- and two-bedroom apartments lease from $899 per month for a 516-square-foot, garden-level apartment, to $2,299 for a 1,648-square-foot, two-bedroom loft apartment.

The apartments were gobbled up quickly. “Having this new housing stock and creating an adaptive reuse project really drove demand,” Marshall says.

Funding for the project included $2.2 million from the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program.