January 30, 2013BERLIN — The three-member board of county commissioners voted unanimously at Wednesday's special meeting to approve an application for a county-sponsored $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to provide part of a financing package to modernize systems and rehabilitate Brookside Park Apartments.
The 120-unit apartment complex on 14 acres on Maynesboro Street on the City's East Side was built in the mid-70s to provide housing for low-income residents, and all units have been covered by a Section 8 contract that provides rent subsidies since 1976.
Two-bedroom units make up 77 — nearly half — the units in the Park's 13 buildings. Only 14 are one-bedroom units, and the remaining 30 are three-bedroom units, making it very family-oriented, explained Dave Carlen of Newton, Mass., president of the Norwich Corporation, an investment advisor and manager for private placement equity real estate investment, that seeks to recapitalize the complex, likely including $1.9 million in tax credits, for a possible investment total of $2.4 million.
"Brookside is a family site; there are 300-plus people who make their homes there, 85 percent of them families," said long-time property manager June Kelliher, who works for HallKeen Management of Norwood, Mass., and chooses to live on site. A building with common space includes laundry facilities.
Commissioner Paul Grenier, who also serves as mayor, said that his mother-in-law lives in the complex; he pointed out that the complex has attracted a good mix of law-abiding citizens.
If the CBDG is funded, it would provide $475,000 for on-site work, with the remainder spent on administration, explained CBDG consultant Donna Lane of Conway.
The project is also seeking to refinance its existing debt through a 40-year mortgage with the N.H. Housing Finance Authority. Such a financial package would ensure that Brookside would remain "affordable housing" under an extended Section 8 contract.
The units are "safe, comfortable, clean and in good condition," Carlen said, but siding, doors, and windows — the buildings' envelopes — need to be replaced and insulation upgraded, and, if possible, the parking lot repaved with improved drainage.
Civil engineers have conducted a needs assessment as well as an energy audit that indicated that tighter building and heating system improvements could save some $165,000 a year. Each unit will also be looked at individually to see if any work needs to be done.
CDBG applications were due on Monday, Jan. 28, with awards to be announced in April.
If Brookside receives the needed funding, Carlen said he anticipates the rehabilitation work would take 15 months, with completion in 2015. During the active construction phase, Brookside will try to keep one or two units vacant to be used as temporary housing for tenants whose units are being worked on.
Grenier pointed out that the county has submitted CDBG applications for projects in other Coös County towns. Every community is eligible to apply for CDBG funding, Lane said, and in recent years both Lancaster and Northumberland have taken advantage of the program. Northumberland has recently begun the process needed to secure another one.
Because of Berlin's larger population of some 10,000 residents, it has more projects and has used the county's eligibility more frequently, Lane explained. The county was awarded CDBG funds for Berlin's Notre Dame senior housing project on behalf of Tri-County Community Action Program (TC-CAP).
But the grant was withdrawn last month when a court-appointed trustee was put in charge of the agency.
The city is now applying for the Notre Dame project under a new developer, AHEAD.
Because new regulations require more than half of the previous grant to be spent before an application can be made for a new one, Lane pointed out, the county would not be eligible to apply for the Brookside CDBG if the Notre Dame project had gone forward.