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Developer proposes condo complex in South Royalton

  • In this artist rendering, Framework Group envisions its nine-unit condominium complex, set back from South Windsor street in South Royalton, offering green space, solar panels and other energy-efficient features. Purchase prices would range from $204,500 for a one-bedroom, one-bath unit to $344,500 for units with two bedrooms and two baths. Rental prices would range between $1,350 a month and $1,970 a month, the developers say.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/4/2019 10:47:46 PM
Modified: 8/4/2019 10:59:16 PM

SOUTH ROYALTON — A writer-turned-developer aims to build a nine-unit, energy-efficient condominium complex in downtown South Royalton.

Hartland resident David Sleeper said on Friday that his Framework Group’s project, proposed for a lot behind three historic houses that overlook the village green, “is still in the financing stages.” And while preparing to acquire state permits, the group is inviting potential residents to apply for units, which would become available in spring 2020, at sale prices ranging from $204,500 and $344,500, or at monthly rents between $1,350 and $1,950.

“I’ve always been interested in the nexus between really good building and land protection, and in ways to develop interesting housing while living lightly on the land,” said Sleeper, who was the founding editor of Vermont Magazine and ran the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation in central New Hampshire between 2005 and 2017. “I’ve been working the last couple of years on a variety of projects in that vein, and this is the project that came together most quickly.”

Sleeper bought the 0.7-acre lot behind the South Royalton Health Center from South Royalton resident Thomas Powers, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author with whom Sleeper studied writing at Yale University. Powers owns 12 rental units in and around South Royalton village, which is home to Vermont Law School.

“I think there definitely will be demand for it,” Powers said of the condominium complex. “Students from the law school live in a lot of the rental housing near the school, and out in the countryside, but in the village itself, there aren’t any really new, comfortable, nice places to live that a professor or a retired professor might want to live.”

Sleeper said that in addition to faculty, staff and retired faculty, he can foresee attracting law-school students who now are commuting from White River Junction, as well as middle-age empty-nesters “who are looking to downsize.”

Other potential buyers and renters, he added, could include medical-school and graduate-school students from Dartmouth College and professionals at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Framework’s web site cites a “small house movement sensibility” in describing the condos as “making efficient use of light-filled space,” in units that will “range in size from a 550-square-foot one-bedroom apartment with bath to a 990-square-foot unit with two bedrooms and two baths.

“Some units have porches,” the description continues, “while all have spacious basement storage lockers suitable for bikes and kayaks.”

Sleeper said that with his MIT-trained architect son Buck Sleeper, and with the Hartford-based firm of O’Hara & Gercke as general contractor, Framework plans to “incorporate green design elements,” among them a solar array on the roof, double-glazed windows, heat pumps for climate control and a community garden.

Royalton Planning Commission Chairman Stuart Levasseur said on Thursday that “this is the first I have heard of the proposal. … I have not been given any information and no permits have been filed or applied for which would require our sign off.” Sleeper said that the project requires no local permits other than “water and sewer allocations, which are in place.”

Sleeper said that his interest in the topics of sustainable housing and conservation goes back to his editorship at Vermont Magazine and at Blair & Ketchum’s Country Journal. It grew during his tenure at the Hubbard Center, where he managed housing, laboratories, and other buildings for more than 60 research scientists.

His most recent work, after leaving the Hubbard Center, has included advising the Woodstock Community Trust on workforce housing with a land-conservation bent. Depending on how 71 Windsor Street goes, he envisions trying such projects in village centers as well as “on pieces of land that are significant in terms of ecosystems under threat” that might benefit from cluster housing.

“We thought this would be a good test case,” he said of South Royalton.

Powers described the village as well suited for such a test.

“It does not have a highway running right through the middle of it, which makes it a nice place to live,” Powers said. “If (Sleeper) succeeds, a lot of small towns in Vermont could become building sites for people who no longer like to mow lawns and who are too old to put up their own wood for the winter.”

David Corriveau can be reached at or 603-727-3304.

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