BRATTLEBORO — A new housing development for low-income senior citizens and people with disabilities will help replace another complex severely damaged by Hurricane Irene.
The three-story, 55-unit apartment complex, known as the Red Clover Common development, is being built on Fairground Road and will replace a significant portion of the Melrose Terrace housing complex on Melrose Street, according to Christine Hart, executive director of the Brattleboro Housing Partnership.
The Melrose housing complex had been hit hard by Hurricane Irene in 2011. Flooding had damaged the interior and exterior of a majority of the units, according to Hart.
“Out of our 80 units (at Melrose Terrace), we had 60 that sustained some level of damage,” she said.
The Red Clover housing units are designed for elderly residents or those with disabilities, according to Hart.
The official groundbreaking for the more than 70,000-square-foot building will be at the end of the month, and there’s a one-year construction timeline, Hart said.
A majority of the 55 units will be one-bedroom, with only two two-bedroom apartments, Hart said.
She said they are still looking for a second location for the remaining Melrose Terrace apartments. She added that residents who come from Melrose will pay the same rent at the new location.
The new property will be one of six that Hart’s organization runs.
“They’re being built very much with the intention of people aging in place,” she said.
For example, apartments will have wheelchair-accessible showers and kitchen islands that can be lowered.
Outside, wheelchair-accessible garden boxes from the previous location will be brought to the new land, and all walkways will be paved to ensure people can get around comfortably.
The building will also have community spaces on every floor and a kitchen on the first floor, though group meals won’t be served regularly, according to Hart.
The project will cost about $15 million and will be paid for through low-income housing tax credits, state funding and the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program. The federal program, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, provides grants to cities and towns, counties and states affected by declared natural disasters, and will pay for a significant portion of the costs, Hart said.
Hart said her organization started off with a list of 40 potential sites, which was eventually whittled down to the top six. This was done through a committee made up of residents at Melrose, community members from West Brattleboro and town planning staff.
Once the top few had been chosen, the group toured all the sites. Though the Fairground Road site was not the biggest, it was a clear winner in the eyes of some of the committee members.
“When we got to this one, every resident who was on the committee got off the bus ... and smiled and beamed, and said, ‘This is where it should be,’ ” Hart said.
Though other locations could have held all of the 80 units that need to be replaced, the businesses and services near the Fairground Road site set it apart.
The new housing development is a little more than a mile from Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. Brattleboro Union High School and Brattleboro Area Middle School are also nearby, she said.
“People are very excited about being able to go to basketball games and football games,” Hart said.
Hart said she’s not yet sure what will happen to the Melrose buildings once the new building is constructed.
“That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?” she said.
Hart, along with other town officials, have looked into potential uses of the land by commissioning studies of the area.
“We need to get back together after the summer and take a look at the studies we’ve had done,” she said.
But Hart said turning the area into another residential development would be very difficult, given the changes made to flood insurance after the hurricane.
“It will be very, very expensive for someone to take on this property,” she said.