On August 19th, 2016 the Laconia Area Community Land Trust (LACLT) celebrated the completion of River’s Edge with a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house.
Jason Hicks, LACLT Board Chair, welcomed a packed room of 100+ LACLT members and supporters. He thanked all the people and organizations that made this project possible and called it LACLT’s “crowning achievement.”
Mayor Ed Engler was on hand to share the distant and recent history of the site. After a private developer abandoned plans to redevelop the site, the Planning Department turned to LACLT. Engler spoke on behalf of the city, saying for 20 years, a procession of mayors, councilors, and administrators have viewed the Land Trust as “an extremely valuable partner” who has a “glorious history of turning something that wasn’t into something that is.”
In 2004 LACLT re-developed the old Vernitron factory across the street from River’s Edge. Millview, an apartment complex of 18 units, was re-developed at the request of the city and also required the removal of highly contaminated soil.
Dean Christon, Executive Director of New Hampshire Housing, touted River’s Edge as “a special project” that re-purposed a hazardous vacant space and added to the affordable housing stock. He stated that “this has been a very challenging project that required creativity and tenacity.”
Paul Weech, Chief Executive Officer of NeighborWorks® America, a congressionally chartered non-profit corporation that supports 247 organization like LACLT throughout the country, said that LACLT “stands out amongst the 247.”
Last to speak, but certainly one of the most memorable, was Erin Weller from the LACLT Board of Directors. Erin came to LACLT as a working but homeless single mother. She entered LACLT’s Transitional Housing Program and upon successfully graduating from the program, she moved into one of LACLT’s permanently affordable units. She then took financial literacy and homebuyer education programs offered by LACLT. Today, she is currently under contract for her first home! After a large applause Erin stated, “If someone had asked me five years ago what would happen if I applied to be homeowner, I would have told them I didn’t have a chance. But because of the Land Trust, I am almost there.” Weller welcomed the new River’s Edge tenants to the LACLT family and urged them to take advantage of what LACLT has to offer.
River’s Edge includes 32 fully accessible apartments; 12 one-bedroom and 20 two-bedroom units, leased at permanently affordable rents. The building includes a community day care facility for infants aged between six-weeks and 18 months that will be run by Lakes Region Community Child Care. The building also includes our HOMEteam office and classroom that will be used for homeownership and financial literacy classes and one-on-one counseling.
The three-story building overlooks the Winnipesaukee River just above the Avery Dam, offering views of the Busiel Mill and Belknap Mill and adds 700 feet to the downtown river walk.
The building is within walking distance of downtown restaurants, stores, schools, churches, the hospital, a grocery store, and more. “The property illustrates so much of what we talk about with community development,” said Weech. “It’s not just creating a home, but a home that is connected to amenities. A home that is safe and secure and part of the bigger community.”
To close the ceremony some key people were recognized and given a token of appreciation. The project Visionary Award was presented to the Hickey family in honor of George Hickey. He was a great friend and architect to LACLT for over 20 years. George designed River’s Edge and passed away suddenly before he could see his design become a reality.
Project Heros include Jim Menihane, Rob Dapice and Shaun Malone of New Hampshire Housing; Jonathan Smith of Warren Street Architects; Chip Elliott of Eckman Construction; Kevin Leonard of Northpoint Engineering; and Courtney Moore of TLCM Environmental Engineering.
The Good Neighbor Award was given to Joseph Gonzalez who was a supporter of the project since the beginning.
Funding partners for River’s Edge are: New Hampshire Housing, Raymond James, NeighborWorks America, Rural LISC, Community Development Finance Authority, Belknap County, City of Laconia, and Laconia Area Community Land Trust.
If you are or someone you know is interested in renting, contact Danielle Maslbas of The Hodges Companies at (800) 724-4686 or email firstname.lastname@example.org