Valley News – Housing project on track to add 42 homes at White River Junction

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WHITE RIVER JUNCTION – A new 42-unit affordable housing development is planned on a lot in close proximity to the Lyman Bridge, which carries traffic across the Connecticut River from Vermont to western Lebanon.

The Riverwalk project, which will occupy the corner of Maple Street and Prospect Street, is a joint effort by DEW Construction and The Braverman Co. (DEW-Braverman). Once construction is complete, DEW-Braverman will transfer ownership of the development to Twin Pines Housing Trust and Evernorth, two not-for-profit housing organizations.

The units are intended to help address the housing shortage in the region. According to Beth Long, CFO and associate director of Twin Pines Housing, rental vacancy rates in the Upper Valley are expected to be less than 1%.

“It’s very difficult for people to find rental housing right now,” she said.

The project targets two vacant lots totaling 0.86 acres. The 42-unit apartment building would contain 10 studios, four three-bedroom apartments, 20 two-bedroom apartments and eight one-bedroom apartments for a total of 43,297 square feet of living space.

The development would also include 26 ‘hidden’ parking spaces in a garage, 30 surface parking spaces, a communal lounge and a renters space.

The property is owned by DEW-Prospect Street, LLC – a subsidiary of DEW Properties – and the project is part of DEW’s ongoing Prospect Street redevelopment project, which also includes two completed buildings: a four-story state offices building and a two-story one-story building Commercial building in which a hairdressing salon is located.

The Riverwalk Housing Project would provide affordable housing for a range of incomes. Depending on the number of people living in a unit, residents with annual incomes ranging from about $30,000 to $90,000 could be eligible for rent, Andrew Winter, executive director of Twin Pines Housing, said in a phone interview last week.

z”The idea behind this project is that it’s really mixed income,” Winter said. “We want living space that people can afford.”

Eight of the Riverwalk units are also designed to serve households affected by or at risk of homelessness.

The project is moving forward after receiving support from three municipal authorities last month. With sufficient funding, construction could begin later this year and is expected to be complete by December 2023, according to materials provided to the Hartford Selectboard.

During its September 6 meeting, the Hartford Selectboard approved a request for assistance in filing the Vermont Community Development Program grant application for $400,000, or approximately 2.5% of the project’s cost, which totals approximately $15 million .

“This project is a bit different in that we will receive (the grant) upon its completion,” Long, Twin Pines CFO, said during the meeting earlier last month. “To commit to that, we need to secure all funding upfront.”

Block grant money through the program is federally funded, but the grant application must come from a community, Lori Hirshfield, Hartford’s planning and development director, said during the Sept. 6 selection committee meeting. Money from the grant must also benefit low- to middle-income households, and a public hearing must be held to discuss the grant.

“Every layer of our funding is important, and that $400,000 is important,” Long said.

Additional sources of funding for the project include the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Home Investment Partnerships Program, low-income housing tax credits, bank financing and the Upper Valley Loan Fund.

Five members of the public were present at this meeting agenda item and public comments during the hearing included support for the project given the housing needs in the area.

Selectboard vice chair Dan Fraser inquired about plans for the building’s environmental sustainability and green space initiatives.

“With the new energy bill coming out of the federal government, I’m heartened to see you have heat pumps for heating and cooling, but I also wonder if there’s funding for Powerwall devices that store electricity,” he said. “We can look at that now and see if there are grants available for that.”

Evernorth lead developer Ben Sturtz said the project will be solar-enabled.

“There’s a very good chance the building will be fitted with solar panels,” he said. “We know that we will have some (electric vehicle) charging stations,” he added.

He also raised special considerations that need to be made because part of the site is in a designated flood risk area adjacent to the Connecticut River.

“In terms of the site itself, there isn’t much to do like we would normally do on any other project,” he said. “Much of it is dedicated to stormwater retention at this particular site.”

Since the Selectboard approved the grant application, applicants have also received municipal land use permits from the Hartford Zoning Board of Adjustment and Planning Commission. Developers plan to apply for planning permission later this fall, Winter said.

The VCDP grant application has since also been submitted and is expected to be heard before the Vermont Community Development Board in November, Hirshfield said.

“This project probably won’t be built for another year or a year and a half,” Long said. If everything goes according to plan, the residents should move in in the spring of 2024.

Rose Terami can be contacted at [email protected]

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