New rental neighborhood opens in Burlington’s New North End
Governor Peter Shumlin and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger on Friday joined a trio of nonprofit housing organizations to mark the completion of an attractive, new neighborhood off North Avenue in Burlington’s New North End.
“The creation of this neighborhood comes at a time of new energy in Burlington. These perpetually affordable homes will ensure residents of all incomes and ages have a place here,” said Governor Shumlin. “The state is happy to have supported this energy-efficient, smart growth development and the jobs that come along with it. Congratulations to the talented team that put the project together.”
Reflecting the name of a former school, Thayer Commons consists of three properties: Thayer House, 69 senior apartments developed by the Cathedral Square Corporation in two phases; Avenue Apartments, 33 apartments developed by Housing Vermont and the Champlain Housing Trust (CHT); and The Flats a project developed by EF Farrell which offers a total of 88 apartments in two phases. When complete, the new neighborhood will be home to nearly 200 households.
“The redevelopment of the former Thayer School is among the best local examples of smart growth. At the heart of the American dream is the simple hope that each of us can choose to live in a neighborhood that is beautiful, safe, affordable and easy to get around. The Thayer development makes that dream a reality for hundreds of people,” said Mayor Weinberger. “Congratulations to Champlain Housing Trust, Housing Vermont, Cathedral Square Corporation and Eric Farrell on transforming a vacant school with acres of parking into this vibrant community for people from all walks of life.”
The regional rental market is marked by high rents and very few vacancies. The current Burlington apartment vacancy rate is less than 1 percent (5% is considered a market balanced between landlords and tenants). The median rent in the region is $1,263 for a 2-bedroom apartment without utilities.
Demand for the new apartments has been extremely high. Construction of Thayer House was completed in May and all 33 senior apartments were reserved prior to the opening date. The 33 units at Avenue Apartments became available on May 29 and are also already fully leased.
“We have 100 people filling out rental applicants a month, and no one project can close the gap in demand,” said CHT Chief Operating and Financial Officer Michael Monte. “But here we have made an impact while demonstrating how a new development can complement an existing vibrant neighborhood.”
Thayer House provides seniors with 30 one- and three two-bedroom apartments in a three-story building featuring many amenities including central air conditioning, a secure entry-way system, laundry facilities on each floor and a smoke-free environment. However, it is the strong services that distinguish Thayer House.
“Thayer House represents the future of Cathedral Square,” said Executive Director Nancy Eldridge. “When we think about housing for seniors we envision a setting where residents have the support they need, when they need it. Thayer House was designed to provide the community rooms, accessibility and technology to complement our new Support And Services at Home (SASH) program. SASH helps residents stay healthy and at home.”
SASH, a care partnership among Cathedral Square, VNA of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties, Champlain Valley Agency on Aging and other service providers, offers case management and preventive services in the home setting at no cost to the participants.
Avenue Apartments offers 12 one-, 18 two- and 13 three-bedroom apartments for low, moderate and market rate singles and families. The highly energy efficient building incorporates many green features, including roof-mounted photovoltaic solar panels which produce more electricity than the building uses.
“The three elements of Thayer Commons clearly demonstrate the success of a coordinated, thoughtful response to the need to meaningfully increase the supply of housing while fitting into established neighborhoods,” said Housing Vermont President Nancy Owens. “None of this would have been possible without the cooperation of our neighbors, the City and the State of Vermont and the financial support of both the public and private sector,” Owens said.
Over a dozen sources of funds financed the new development, including a HUD special purpose grant secured by Senator Patrick Leahy.
The Cathedral Square Corporation (CSC) is a non-profit organization that owns and manages communities for seniors and individuals with special needs. The organization was founded as a ministry of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in 1977 and by 1979 CSC had opened its first building in downtown Burlington, Vermont. For the past 30 years, Cathedral Square has lived up to its mission of “healthy homes, caring communities and positive aging”, providing housing with supportive services for over 1,235 residents. As an advocate for a system that better serves the long term care needs of Vermonters. Cathedral Square administers the SASH program statewide as part of Vermont’s Blueprint for Health. The organization continues to develop properties throughout Northwestern Vermont. Today, CSC owns and/or manages 25 housing communities, each uniquely designed to provide safe and secure apartments at an affordable price.
The Champlain Housing Trust, founded in 1984, is the largest community land trust in the country. Throughout Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties, CHT owns and manages approximately 1,500 apartments, stewards over 500 owner-occupied homes in its signature shared-equity program, and provides services to five housing cooperatives and other resident-controlled housing that is home to 460 households. CHT also provides homebuyer education and financial counseling and offers affordable energy efficiency and rehab loans. In 2008, CHT won the prestigious United Nations World Habitat Award, recognizing its innovative, sustainable programs.
Housing Vermont, a nonprofit syndication and development company founded in 1988, creates permanently affordable rental housing for Vermonters through partnerships with local organizations, public agencies and the private sector. This highly successful partnership has produced more than 4,400 affordable apartments in 145 different developments. Housing Vermont has raised and deployed more than $247 million in private equity which has leveraged an additional $351 million in private financing and public investment.