The developer behind a state-of-the-art senior housing facility on Bombardier Road celebrated a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony on Monday.
South Burlington-based affordable housing corporation Cathedral Square introduced its new three-story, 30-unit development, Elm Place, which will maintain one of the highest standards of energy efficiency, officials said.
There were no ceremonial shovels in the ground, though: Guests were ushered inside the nearby Eagles Club to escape the driving rain.
“We hope that it’s 100 percent drier when we’re here for the ribbon-cutting,” said Josh Hanford, deputy commissioner of the Vt. Department of Housing and Community Development.
The department was one of several groups represented at the presentation. Others included Peoples United Bank, Efficiency Vermont, TD Charitable Foundation, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and more.
All told, funding sources totaled $8.5 million, 75 percent coming from low-income housing tax credits, CSC development director Cindy Reid said.
The one-bedroom apartments are considered affordable housing, much-needed in Milton: A 2013 CSC market survey indicated 64 percent of Milton renters pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing, exceeding Chittenden County and state totals.
Milton’s elderly population is growing, too, climbing 3 percent points to 8.8 percent of the town’s population between 2000 and 2010, town data shows. Back in 2013, when CSC first started eyeing Milton, the town had only a .6 percent vacancy rate; 5 percent is considered robust.
There are already 140 people on the project’s inquiry list, Reid said.
The project was made possible by brokering three land deals, the largest portion from Roger “Gil” Rugg, who sold his parcel at 2 Bombardier Rd. for $205,000, land records show.
Cathedral Square also paid Milton Church of Christ on Middle Road and New Life Christian Fellowship on Centre Drive $35,000 and $25,000, respectively, for portions of their parcels to create the needed 1.73-acre lot, records show.
In 10 months, Elm Place will become Vermont’s first multifamily passive house project, an approach that expects to use 65 percent less energy than typical building codes, CSC says.
Passive housing is a super-insulated design build that uses air source heat pumps to condition exterior air, Reid said.
The project is architect Duncan Wisniewski’s first passive housing unit. President Mike Wisniewski was certified in the standard three years ago but found many homeowners didn’t want to pay up to 15 percent more to reach it.
Wisniewski said a large-scale multifamily unit creates more efficiency; in CSC’s case, it only added 2 percent to the overall cost. The achievement was significant, Reid added.
“We’re always trying to do something new and cool and exciting, and so we were a little nervous – could we really do this?” she recalled. “There’s all this news about fracking, all these questions about what is long-term sustainable. We’re trying to create responsible development in town centers.”
That aligns with Milton’s goals to create a more recognizable, service-rich downtown, town manager Donna Barlow Casey said. She called the project a milestone in the town’s efforts to create “a new Milton.”
“We are downright excited about this,” she said, noting Milton’s active senior population. “As a result, this project is completely compatible with what Milton sees as its future … It’s honoring a sense of place, and we are very grateful for that.”
Sarah Carpenter, executive director of the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, was excited to be part of a project that enriches a downtown.
“It allows people to age longer and in place and in their community. That’s what this is all about,” she said.
The units will all be served by SASH, or CSC’s Support and Services at Home program that offers personalized care without leaving the residence. The group’s data shows this leads to lower spending for Medicare, emergency room visits and more.
The apartments will have covered parking, on-site laundry and storage and an exercise room.
“It’s really about providing a home and making certain that folks in our community can stay safe and healthy in that home,” said Michael Seaver, president of Peoples United in Vermont. “The SASH program is something we as Vermonters should be extraordinarily proud of.”
Reid was pleased to see the project go from concept to near completion.
“We’re thrilled to be at the center of town … right near all the services the town has to offer,” she said, adding, “We know there will be a lot of interest.”
Cathedral Square will hold a community meeting about the rental application process this fall.