Changes Ahead for Ho Hum Champlain Housing Trust Proposes Permanent Housing

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Thursday March 19, 2015

The Ho Hum motel at 1200 Shelburne Rd. is ready for a facelift and a new attitude.

That’s the word from the Champlain Housing Trust (CHT) with the submittal of a sketch plan application before the Development Review Board at its March 3 meeting. The plan (#SD-15-03), is a planned unit development to convert a 24 room motel to a 20 unit multi-family dwelling. The rooms will be one bedroom and efficiency apartments reserved for individuals who will be required to sign a one-year lease. CHT will be leasing the building for 15 years before having the option to purchase.

“The population we’re targeting is individuals who are currently homeless, living in the woods, who are medically vulnerable,” explains Amy Demetrowitz, CHT’s director of real estate development. An existing office will be occupied by two on-site social workers who will be able to help tenants make medical appointments and offer other social services as needed, and a resident manager will be housed in one of the apartments. Adjacent properties will have a 24/7 point of contact if any issues arise.

The base density of the property is 15 units within the C1-R15 portion of the property. Because this is an application for affordable housing, the applicant is also asking for a density bonus. Furthermore, given that this targeted population is less likely to own cars, the applicant is asking for a parking waiver for reduced spots: 30 spots down from the required 40. There will be bike racks on site.

Marian Fritz of the Burlington company Grandview Farms, Inc., owner of the Panera building adjacent to the Ho Hum, came to learn more about the possibility of turning over a new leaf. “They [Champlain Housing Trust] do good work. I think a lot of the models that they’re doing now, they have social workers there so that there’s ongoing intervention and introduction to stabilizing this population that causes a lot of other people problems, and a lot of stereotypes that may or may not be true,” she said. “I think everyone’s looking forward to this being a better situation than what they’re [Panera] currently dealing with,” she added. “You don’t want to be a regular at Panera, and every time you’re there, the cops are next door.”

“It sounds like, with a probable increase in stability with the long-term nature of habitation in the building, the one year leases and the on-site administration from the social workers…you might be looking at a whole new group of customers,” Chair Tim Barritt said.

“I want to extend to all neighbors that we are more than happy to sit down and explain what our plans are and walk the site to really delve into the details of the program management as well,” Demetrowitz said. “It’s very hard to manage a transient population, so when we transfer this to permanent, one-year leases, we’ll know who everybody is, we’ll know who all the tenants are who come back night after night--unlike in a motel that’s really hard to keep track of.”
The Champlain Housing Trust has executed similar projects, such as the single-family occupancy buildings on South Union Street. Bill Nedde III, P.E. of Krebs and Lansing Consulting Engineers is heading the project. For more information about the Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington, call 802-862-6244, or visit www.getahome.org.

SOURCE:  Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent