Grant brings Applegate energy efficiency upgrades closer to breaking ground
BENNINGTON >> Funds recently awarded to the Applegate housing complex has brought a multi-million dollar project to improve energy efficiency closer to reality.
The $1.5 million from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board is the latest piece of funding needed for what will be a $6 million rehabilitation, according to Matt Moore, developer for Housing Vermont.
A major component will be replacing the existing oil-fired boilers with a nearly $1 million biomass heating system that will serve all 104 units, a move Moore said will cut energy costs in half.
"That will put the property back on stable operating ground," Moore said Wednesday.
It will take a year and a half to complete the project, which will include new windows and insulation, and retrofitting three existing units to make them fully handicap accessible.
"By making the property more energy efficient and financially stable, we will be able to offer more to residents that live there," Moore said. "It's not just about (the business') bottom line. It's about improving the quality of life for people who live there and will live in the future."
Moore said two more funding sources are pending: $318,750 in equity from low-income housing tax credits and $495,000 from the Community Development Block Grant program, federal money distributed by the state. A mix of other state and federal grants, a loan from the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, low-income housing tax credits and bank financing are already secured. The most recently awarded funds includes $1,050,315 from the VHCB and $499,316 from the federal HOME program.
Applegate was built in 1973 and was one of four similar public housing projects built in Vermont by the same private developer, according to VHCB Executive Director Gus Seelig.
"It originally wasn't well constructed and at the time people didn't think a lot about energy efficiency," Seelig said.
After the former ownership defaulted on a federal housing and urban development mortgage in 1996, Burlington-based nonprofit Housing Vermont and the residents association purchased the property, demolished a part of it and undertook a major overhaul of the buildings and grounds.
Moore said upgrading the heating system is now "absolutely needed" to lower operating costs.
"For a number of years, the property has not been financially sustaining itself," he said. Much of that has to do with heating costs — about $180,000 spent each year on heating fuel.
During the project, the 29 oil-fired boilers throughout the 23-building complex will be removed and replaced with a single centrally-located biomass boiler which will burn wood pellets and wood chips from local suppliers. Moore said new windows and doors, and insulation in the buildings' attics and their interiors and exteriors, will help the complex meet current energy codes.
Other work will include repairs and upgrades to water and sewer lines; improvements to roadways, sidewalks and parking areas; and new electrical infrastructure. Maloney Property Management will continue to manage the property.
The final $9.6 million price tag includes refinancing $2 million in loans and $1.6 million for architect, engineer, legal and other fees, according to Moore.
Housing Vermont co-owns the complex with the residents association Applegate Housing, Inc.. Local nonprofit Shires Housing will serve as general partner and a new entity will be formed to secure financing.
"This project is great for the community in terms of community development," Shires Housing Executive Director Stephanie Lane said. "It brings jobs and economic activity to the town of Bennington, brings technology and the biomass/renewable energy industries, and improves the lives of the residents as well."
Moore said residents will be able to stay in their units and won't be relocated during the project, with the possible exception of people living in three units set to undergo major layout changes when they are made handicap accessible.
"We want to make it as easy as possible," he said.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979
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