Berlin Daily Sun: Kuster Visits Notre Dame Senior Housing Project
BERLIN – As a part of her North Country tourism and energy tour, Congresswoman Annie Kuster visited the ongoing project at Notre Dame Senior Housing.
The former Notre Dame High School at 411 School Street in Berlinis a part of the Northern Forest Center's Model Neighborhood project.
The building will have four wood pellet boilers for heat. Two are already installed.
Maura Adams, Program Director of the Northern Forest Center, said Notre Dame was one of the three larger boiler systems added as part of the project. (The others are at St. Kieran's Center for the Arts and the Berlin Housing Authority.) There are also 40 residential boilers in Berlin.
Skip Bennett of Maine Energy Systems said that together the boilers will provide about 800,000 thermal units (Btus) of heat. When unneeded the system can go down to a third of one boilers, about 60,000 Btus.
Adams said that with the pellet boiler, 100 percent of the heating costs stay locally, from New England forest industries, as opposed to about 20 percent with oil heating.
“I wish the rest of the state could see this,” said Kuster.
According to statistics from Northern Forest Center, homeowners see a 30 to 40 percent cost savings by switching from oil to pellets.
There are also plans for solar hot water and solar electricity, said Olivia Beleau, of Affordable Housing, Education, and Development (AHEAD) and project manager of the site.
Notre Dame opened as a school in 1906 and graduated its final class in 1972. The building is now owned by AHEAD.
The plan is to convert the building to a 33 unit housing complex for senior citizens. People over 65 make up 23 percent of Berlin's population, according to Census data. Coos also has the highest unemployment rate in the state and 9.1 families are below the poverty level.
The budget for the building renovations is $7.78 million, Beleau said. About $5 million was awarded to local contracts.
The project has funding from several different sources such as a Community Development Block Grant, Historic Preservation tax credits and New Hampshire Housing Financial Authority low income housing credits.
Kuster received a tour of the building including the community dining area on the lower level and some of the upper level apartments that have views looking out over Berlin towards the mountains.
“This is quite a project,” said Kuster.
Part of the plan for the building it to try and maintain some of the historic qualities. The building is on the National Register for Historic places.
The chapel will be preserved with the glass block windows with a cross detail. The alter is currently in storage, but will also be returned to the space. Wood flooring was salvaged from the school and it will be going in the chapel, which will also have wainscoting.
Project Rescue Notre Dame, an alumni group, has collected school memorabilia which will be displayed in common spaces.
“It's like bringing back living history,” said Kuster.
Two more boilers need to be installed as well as the backup propane system, electrical panels, and finishes.
Beleau said the building is on track to be completed in December when they will have a large ribbon-cutting and community celebration.
In January, residents will be moving in. It must be fully occupied by December 2015.