Photo Gallery | Assembling prefabricated housing
WALPOLE, N.H. — A set of workforce housing units is expected to be complete by Avanru Development Group by early or mid-May of this year.
After seven years of jumping through hoops to make this project possible, "The Residences at Abenaki Springs," compromised of 21 units, is now under construction. The units will consist of six two-bedroom and bathroom units as well as 15 one-bedroom and one-bathroom units. The development is located behind Tractor Supply Co. store on Route 12.
"It's been a long process, a lot of bumps and bruises along the way," said Jack Franks, president and CEO of Avanru Development Group. The Residences at Abenaki Springs had been under some scrutiny from the public, but regardless of any opposition, the project is underway. "Now we're under construction, which is a good place to be after seven years of hard work."
The plan involves three phases and is currently under construction for phase one, which is expected to cost $4.5 million. According to Franks, this amount consists of infrastructure expenses such as power, sewer, pavement, roadways. The additional phases include the construction of two additional housing units to the right side of the 21-unit one building. By the end of the final stage, 67 units may be available to the public if there is a demand.
Franks says the project originally stemmed from conversations in Walpole around the lack of amenities for housing and restaurants in the area that are affordable for working people and their families.
"Prior to this starting, we had a lot of homes in the area; I think 40-percent of stock in Walpole built before 1930 without adequate insulation and that were expensive to live in," said Franks. He feels that this project will meet basic needs and beyond for the region's residents.
These "exceptional spacious units," as Franks describes them, will be equipped with the latest in Energy Star Technology, complete with all maintenance, lawn care, snow and rubbish removal included. Each unit will have a full kitchen including a stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave and garbage disposal.
According to Franks the one bedroom/one bathroom units are 775 square feet and the two bedroom/two bathroom units are 1,150 square feet. Other amenities will include: Energy Star Appliances and Lighting, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Accessible Units, available common rooms and porches for use by all residents, individually-controlled digital heating and cooling systems, laundry available on site or in unit and garden boxes for fresh vegetables and flowers.
Though the development is located within one mile of Shaw's and Ocean State Job Lot, Franks is hoping to potentially house a community health and wellness center, brewery featuring Cold River Brewing Company, grocery store, restaurants, professional offices and retail storefronts — all within easy walking distance of Abenaki Springs.
"I've got to bring commercial entities to the site that there is a need for," said Franks.
In addition to the Abenaki Springs future plans, Franks said he has addressed some concerns that were voiced by the public over the past seven years. Some of the matters were around transportation, lack of sidewalks and room for children to roam.
"Some of the concerns that were brought up were not appropriately vetted before they were made," said Franks. "This project has been continually engineered and modeled for six plus years and details such as sidewalks, safety and area for recreation have all been considered and appropriately addressed in the overall site plan."
Franks says he has had conversations about transportation with the Current, which is a bus service that runs 15 commuter and local in-town buses and several para-transit and Dial-a-Ride buses in Vermont's Windham and Windsor counties and into neighboring New Hampshire. He said he spoke with the managing director about making Abenaki Springs one of the stops, which he things may be a viable option since it makes stops in Walpole via the Bellows Fall in town route.
In addition, the entrance to Tractor Supply Co. and Abenaki Springs may eventually have a full-service stop light and crosswalks. Franks says when there are enough cars turning on to that route it will require the construction of a full traffic stop light. He noted that this is an exceptional expense that won't come from tax payers and in his words will not be a "pretty number."
Though Avanru Development Group is taking the project phase by phase, Franks believes that the project could move into phase two and three by 2017.
"Each building is a phase and they are all continuous all connected together. This was designed so we could ascertain the need and demand for the buildings because the worst thing we can do would be design 67 units and only sell 40," said Frank. "This is a way to see how great the need is and there are market studies to show we could have the first two phases, up to 46 units, without any problems."
According to Franks, Gerry Walsh, Chief Operating Officer at Alliance Asset Management will handle the tenants at Abenaki Springs.
"Alliance Asset Management is one of premiere management companies in our region, they're absolutely brilliant, up to speed on everything with laws and rules," said Franks.