Earlier this spring NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire embarked on the construction phase of RENEW II, an initiative to complete capital improvements and updates to the 101 apartments in our Elm Street and Temple Court buildings in Manchester. The apartments are located in three properties on the northern end of downtown Manchester, in five buildings, more specifically two brownstone buildings on Elm Street and three buildings in the Straw Mansion Apartments development on Temple Court, located behind the Masonic Temple.
RENEW II is similar to our RENEW I initiative, which we completed in 2017 and involved capital improvements to 98 affordable apartments in 15 buildings in Manchester’s Center City neighborhood. RENEW I properties were among the first that NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire redeveloped in the early 1990s into affordable rental housing when we were known publicly as Manchester Neighborhood Housing Services.
The two Elm Street brownstone buildings, also known as the Carpenter and Bean Block and Smith and Dow Block, consist of 68 apartments and have provided affordable rental housing for low-income households for over twenty years, and the Straw Mansion Apartments, consisting of 33 units between three buildings, has provided affordable rental housing for over fifteen years. One, two, and three-bedroom apartments are located within these five buildings, and all households have incomes that are at or below 50% and 60% of total median family income for the area as determined by the U.S. Department of HUD, which for a family of four in Manchester currently is no more than $53,580.
Capital improvements and upgrades are needed at this time so that the RENEW II properties continue to provide safe, quality dwellings for residents. This redevelopment project will include over $5 million in capital improvements with construction expected to be completed in mid-2023.
Improvements will be made to interior units, common spaces, and the exterior of the buildings. Specific improvements include new flooring, updated kitchens and bathrooms, including appliances and low flow plumbing fixtures, repainted walls and ceilings, and updated HVAC systems to include higher efficiency furnaces. Upon completion, tenants will reside in more energy efficient apartments with upgraded features. In addition, the plan includes improvements to the hardscape and landscape in front of the Elm Street buildings to enhance the streetscape view of these properties.
As a large majority of the Elm Street and Straw Mansion apartments are occupied, a relocation and coordination plan will be utilized throughout the construction process. In anticipation of this project, we ceased re-renting apartments over the last eighteen months when a tenant vacated a unit in order to accumulate a number of vacancies within the five buildings. Tenants will move permanently to a newly redeveloped unit as they are completed, creating new vacancies in the process and units for redevelopment.
Our Tenant Services Coordinators will work closely with tenants throughout the redevelopment process to assist as needed, communicating updates and progress reports as well as helping to coordinate and facilitate the moving process.
Financing is being provided by Enterprise Bank, Evernorth, City of Manchester, New Hampshire Housing, energy rebates through Liberty Utilities and Eversource, and NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire. The development team includes Hutter Construction, Sheehan Phinney, and John S. Jordan Design. Stewart Property Management will also play a key support role as they are integral to the day-to-day operations of these primarily occupied properties.
Jennifer Vadney, Neighborhood Development Director, acknowledges that RENEW II is a complex redevelopment endeavor. “Having completed a similar project several years ago with RENEW I, we now have the benefit of experience in completing this type of occupied renovation. There are a lot of moving parts and the pandemic has certainly added additional challenges but our entire development team is committed to getting the job done while maintaining a safe space for tenants and their families,” she says. “Just as NeighborWorks® Southern New Hampshire seeks to create new, quality affordable rental housing, it is important to maintain the quality of our existing housing for the future,” she continues. The end result of RENEW II will be improved and updated apartments that continue to provide quality affordable housing for 101 families while also being an asset to the neighborhood.