BRATTLEBORO — Construction is scheduled to start next month on a housing complex that is designed, in part, to address homelessness in the Brattleboro area.
With the recent issuance of a state land use permit, Windham & Windsor Housing Trust now has all approvals needed to begin transforming the Lamplighter Inn Motel into an apartment complex called Great River Terrace.
Half the apartments will be available for those who have experienced chronic homelessness. And there will be a variety of services available on site to assist that population.
“I think it fills a tremendous need,” said Connie Snow, the housing trust’s executive director.
The Lamplighter has been a longtime fixture on Putney Road just north of the Interstate 91 interchange.
The Brattleboro-based housing trust has acquired the two primary Lamplighter properties on the west side of the road. Snow said the sale closed in June.
The housing trust is not buying the Lamplighter’s annex on the east side of the road. Snow said zoning issues prevented redevelopment of that site.
The state’s Act 250 permit for the Great River Terrace project authorizes a “total renovation” of the two motel structures the trust owns, along with construction of a community center.
When finished, the Lamplighter’s 24 motel rooms will have become 22 “micro-apartments,” each measuring 350 square feet. “They’re fully contained apartments,” Snow said. “They have a kitchen and a bathroom.”
The new community center will include offices, a laundry and a meeting room, among other facilities.
While Snow said the entire complex is “targeted at people with very low incomes,” 11 of the apartments will be set aside for the homeless.
The housing trust is partnering with two entities – Health Care & Rehabilitation Services of Vermont, and Brattleboro-based Groundworks Collaborative – to provide services on site.
For example, Groundworks Executive Director Josh Davis said his organization will offer case management. That’s a broad category that can include assistance such as job searches; budgeting; finding a primary care provider; or connecting a resident with a mental health clinician.
Davis said those services will be voluntary and flexible depending on a resident’s needs.
The focus will be on the chronically homeless – a population Snow described as “the most vulnerable.”
That might be someone who has been without a home for a long period of time, Davis said, or someone with multiple episodes of homelessness over a shorter period of time.
Davis said one current practice for addressing homelessness is a “scattered site” model, wherein a person is placed in an apartment and social service providers visit to offer assistance.
The difference at Great River Terrace is the combination of multiple housing units and on-site services for those units.
“I’m really excited to be a part of this, because we don’t have a project like this in this area – permanent supportive housing,” Davis said.
While the concept is new in Brattleboro, “nationally, this model has had a lot of success,” Snow said.
Great River Terrace has been years in the making. Brattleboro’s Development Review Board approved the plan earlier this year, while the Act 250 permit arrived July 7.
The state permit doesn’t call for any big changes to the housing trust’s plan. There are some conditions related to lighting and landscaping; for instance, the property must be “fully shielded in all seasons from Interstate 91, with vegetation.”
The permit also requires the housing trust to “continue to work with Southeast Vermont Transit.” Snow said that, due to the property’s location, access to public transportation is important.
“They are reworking their routes in Brattleboro, and we want to be sure that there’s good coverage in terms of transit – to the downtown in particular,” she said.
The project’s price tag has been estimated at $4.3 million, and Snow said all funding is committed at this point.
Funding is coming from a variety of sources in Vermont and at the national level, as well as tax credits.
The housing trust also received a [grant from Windham Regional Commission] to install a solar array on the roof.
Construction is expected to take about 10 months.
“We’re excited to get started,” Snow said.