River Turn Woods Groundbreaking in Conway, NH
- Oct 06, 2022
- By Diane Cooper
- In News
By Emari Traffie
October 4, 2022
River Turn Woods is a 156-home affordable housing project underway in Conway, NH, developed by Avesta Housing, designed by Lassel Architects, engineering by HEB Engineers. In a ceremonial groundbreaking (Hutter started construction in August), Avesta’s President and CEO Rebecca Hatfield stated that this development is much-needed in the area, saying “We recognize that New Hampshire and Maine are experiencing a dire and unprecedented affordable housing crisis, and we are committed to doing everything we can to address that challenge.”
Full remarks below.
Special Assistant for Policy and Projects Chuck Henderson from US Senator Jean Shaheen’s office read a letter from her office.
“Dear Friends, this is an exciting day for everyone in the Mount Washington Valley. We are all aware of how the housing crisis affects our communities everyday and we are fortunate to have Avesta Housing step up to address this need at River Turn Woods. Developing housing and workforce housing in particular has never been easy but Covid, supply chain disruption, inflation and workforce shortages have added to the difficulty. Putting together the financing for a project like this always takes grit and perseverance and I thank the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority for playing a key role in this and many other projects. The support from the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council and the Mount Washington Housing Coalition have always been critical from the outset of the vision for this project. The 40 units in this first building will provide housing for residents now and into the future which will strengthen our workforce and our economy. It also sets and example for housing solutions that can be created in other communities. Since this is Avesta Housing’s 50th anniversary, I’d like to recognize their five decades of making it possible for families in New Hampshire and Maine to find the peace of mind in that place to call home. I have every confidence that the new CEO Rebecca Hatfield will successfully lead Avesta into the next 50 years. Once again, I’d like to congratulate and thank everyone here today who worked so hard on this to make affordable housing and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Sincerely, Jean Shaheen, United States Senator.”
Senior Assistant for Policy Projects Ben Belanger on behalf of Senator Maggie Hassan’s office:
“Dear friends, I regret that I cannot be with you today but I join you in celebrating the Groundbreaking of River Turn Woods. Affordable quality housing is critical to our economy and to our way of life. Developments like this one help ensure that families can thrive while also attracting new businesses and helping existing businesses grow. This development will add 40 units to the region and is an important step for Conway and our surrounding communities. In the Senate, I have been working to address our housing crisis that we all know too well and I was proud to introduce the Expand Housing Opportunities Act earlier this month, a bill that will allow more federal investment in the construction of affordable workforce housing here in NH. Congratulations to Avesta celebrating your 50th year and thank you to everyone here today and all of our partners for your commitment to this critical project in supporting Granite Staters. I look forward to continuing to work together to ensure that NH remains a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”
Rob Dapice, Executive Director of NH Housing
Dapice brought some laughs but quickly shared the seriousness of the River Turn Woods endeavor.
“Well thank you very much, Hello, it’s great to be here. I practiced my remarks on the way up in the car using the voice to text feature on my phone. So I’m happy to be here today at this Vespa Breaky grab–no, I’m not going to do that actually. It’s wonderful to be here on behalf of NH Housing, our board of directors and our Vice Chair Jac Cuddy–who’s here today–and our staff. Congratulations to the Avesta team, Rebecca, Patrick, the construction team, design team, We’ve got Hutter and Lassel architects here today– on getting to this point in the project. It’s been a long road already and I’m so glad that you persisted. I’m also appreciative of the way that you persisted at Avesta, the way that you came and showed up in the community and listened and came forward with a project that met the needs of the people and could get approved. I’m especially glad about that because this area needs it very badly. Housing is a problem across NH really across a lot of the country and there may be areas in NH that need housing as badly as the Mount Washington Valley, but I’m not sure there’s an area where the challenges for the market and developers to meet that need are as serious as they are here. And there’s a lot of reasons for that and the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition has done a terrific job of identifying them and working to solve them, but it’s still a significant challenge and so it just underscores the achievement that Avesta has reached to get to this point in the project. You know, as I was driving up here and the leaves are starting to change now I was thinking about the theme of change and when people come out to line up against a housing project like they did at first when Avesta came to Mount Washington Valley. They always talk about change, they talk about how the housing is going to change their neighborhoods, change their town, there won’t be any going back. What I’d say to them–I know there’s not a lot of them right here in our little audience today–is that for anyone who has been paying attention to what’s been going on in housing and in real estate, especially in a beautiful and desirable place to live like this one–it’s already changed. A lot of change has happened especially in the last two years and what housing like this provides is an opportunity for communities to retain some of what makes them special to retain some of the people that make these places special. It’s an opportunity for people who might’ve grown up in this area and want to come back and start their family in the Mount Washington Valley to do that. It’s an opportunity for people who’ve lived here their whole lives and can’t afford to stay in their houses or don’t want to stay in their houses to stay in the community. So it’s especially important and I’m so proud that NH Housing was part of it.”
Speaking of change, Rob introduced and congratulated Avesta’s new president, Rebecca Hatfield, and provided a breakdown of the smorgasbord of funding they used on this project.
“A lot of the money came from equity from the low-income housing tax credit program which is a federal program run by our friends at the IRS since it’s creation in the mid-80s it’s been the most powerful tool for the creation and preservation of affordable housing around the country. We’ve got our friends from WNC here who facilitated the private investment to make that happen. In some places, you can almost fund a whole project with low-income housing tax credit equity and maybe a small bank loan. That is rarely the case in rural areas, rarely the case in the north country, in places where the rents are a little but lower. So this is kind of a kitchen sink capital stack–as we fondly refer to it–we had to use home investment partnership funds which are administered by HUD and national housing trust fund dollars. These are programs that don’t get quite as much attention except when the federal budget is getting an extreme makeover and they are always on the chopping block. So I hope you’ll join me in making your voices heard when it’s time to tell others about the good work that those programs make possible because it would be hard to support housing in the Mount Washington Valley without them.”
Andy Dean, Chair of the Mount Washington Valley Coalition
“This is an incredible day. it’s something that we’ve been hoping for and dreaming for and working towards for almost a decade at least since I’ve been involved and others have been involved. A project of this magnitude stands to make a real impact on our community, not only for workers that reside here, but for people that want to relocate here and for family members that want to return home this is going to give them an opportunity to that. As president of the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition, I’ve had the pleasure to work with a number of talented individuals that through their advocacy has helped stem the tide for prohibiting affordable housing and for garnering strong public support for projects like this. Victoria Laracy and Harrison Kanzler as well as many of our board members…”
Diane Donaldson, Senior Vice President of Commercial Lending, Bangor Savings Bank
Donaldson shared her enthusiasm for the affordable housing initiatives in New Hampshire and Maine.
“I am so proud to say Bangor Savings has partnered with Avesta in this mission for almost 20 years and I’m even more excited to say this is our fourth project with Avesta in New Hampshire. We look forward to many more of these projects in both NH and Maine. And I also want to say it’s due to the dedication to these future projects of so many of you here today both these organizations and these individuals and your commitment to affordable housing. In fact, Bangor Savings Community Development Affordable Housing–it’s our number one community development mission. We do this through a variety of ways that you’ve talked about–we invest in low income housing tax credits, we invest in the CDFIs, we provide construction and permanent financing. So thank you so much for letting us join in the celebration today and on behalf of all of us at Bangor Savings Bank, a heartfelt congratulations to everyone here.”
Rebecca Hatfield, President, Avesta Housing
Rebecca Hatfield was just 15 days into her role as the President of Avesta Housing, however, she has been a part of this development since day one.
“It’s been a pleasure working with the Avesta team to see this come to fruition and I’m very, very thankful for the hard work that they put into this. I also want to thank all of you for attending this celebration of River Turn Woods. Avesta is honored to be a part of this vibrant community that holds such a rich history and we are proud to be able to bring much needed affordable housing to the area. I’d like a take a quick moment to tell you about Avesta Housing. It is a non-profit organization founded in 1972. For 50 years we have provided safe quality, affordable homes and essential residential support services for people in need. Our residents come from incredibly diverse background and share a desire to live safe, healthy, productive lives in their communities. Avesta operates 110 properties and 3,200 apartments that house nearly 5,000 residents every day. In addition to our current portfolio we have more than 700 units in our real estate development pipeline in NH and Maine. We recognize that NH and Maine are experiencing a dire unprecedented affordable housing crisis and we are committed to doing everything we can to address that challenge. A hallmark of the work Avesta does is strategic and collaborative partnerships to develop housing solutions. There are so many individuals and organizations that come together to build an affordable housing development. I want to thank some of our partners who are helping us make River Turn Woods a reality. Our partners are New Hampshire Housing, WNC, Bangor Savings Bank, The Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, The NH Community Development Finance Authority, The Town of Conway and Perdy Flaherty. We also appreciated strategic support from the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council, The Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition, North Country Council and State Senator Bradley. We are also happy to have exception design and construction partners, Lassel Architects, Hutter Construction and HEB Engineers. I’m glad we had the opportunity to come together today and to officially celebrate and launch this important project and I look forward to inviting all of you back later in 2023, to celebrate with partners, friends and most importantly the residents of River Turn Woods.”
Bangor Savings Bank and WNC sponsored the event and Attitash Mountain Resort provided a van service from parking lot.