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After 13 Years, A Place to Call Home: Gile Hill Provides Affordable Housing

  • ​Lea Winn looks at pictures of her grandchildren while she and her husband,Chris, take a break from unpacking in their new apartment at Gile Hill in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 21, 2016. The couple ​moved in only a couple of days before and ​still had not decided where they wanted to put the kitchen table.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A model of ​the ​Gile Hill​ apartment complex​ in Hanover​,​ N.H., ​is display​ed​​ on Oct. 20, 2016​, at a ceremony​ to celebrate the opening of the final building​.​(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sabina ​​Dougherty​ makes ​​a cowl for an Etsy customer ​at her Gile Hill apartment​​ in Hanover, N.H​., on Oct. 24, 2016. ​​Dougherty​, who​​​ ​has lived at Gile Hill​ for a little over a year​, ​works from home scheduling appointment​s​ for a ​​speech​-​language pathologist​ and also knits and makes jewe​ler​y that she sells​.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Twin Pines Housing Trust ​recently ​completed ​its last building at Gile Hill in Hanover, N.H. The ​nonprofit ​organization​ held a ceremony on Oct. 20, 2016​, to mark the occasion​ and showed ​off ​one of the apartment units in the building. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Andrew Winter, ​executive​ director of Twin Pines Housing Trust, ​and ​Julia Griffin​,​ Hanover ​town ​manager​,​ ​open the most recently finished building at Gile ​Hill in ​Hanover, N.H.​,​ on Oct. 20, 2016. ​​David Ely, ​Twin Pines' director of ​communications and ​development​,​ is ​at right. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Saturday, October 29, 2016

Hanover — The completion of a $2.5 million apartment building last month at Gile Hill, a mixed-income residential development, marked the end of a project 13 years in the making. For some of the new tenants, it turned out to be right on time.

Chris and Lea Winn, formerly of Bath, Maine, retired recently for medical reasons and were struggling to find a place to live.

The couple, who are therapists, were living in a beautiful old house, but Lea had trouble navigating the narrow stairway, said Chris Winn, 69. Finding someplace affordable, on the first floor and, to accommodate their Labrador retriever, border collie mix, Kea, dog-friendly, was “really hard.”

Then, in September, they visited Gile Hill, which was developed by the White River Junction-based nonprofit Twin Pines Housing Trust.

“We fell in love with it,” Chris Winn said at the opening ceremony for the new structure on a rainy afternoon earlier this month. And being a two-bedroom place, it will work well when family members come to visit.

The Winns were still unpacking last week, but Lea Winn, a social worker who had a private practice in Bath, said she’s looking forward to getting involved with the community.

She may not be able to work again, but she’s thinking about volunteering, possibly with people who are homeless or have mental health issues, she said. “I’ll have to take it slow.”

In the meantime, they’re enjoying their new home.

“I didn’t expect how beautiful it is here,” said Lea Winn, 70, who has a brother in Keene, N.H., and a niece in Windsor. “We feel especially fortunate. … You can see how happy we are to be here, at our age and with our situation.”

They weren’t the only ones feeling grateful.

During the ceremony, with rain threatening to drown out his words, Twin Pines Executive Director Andrew Winter read aloud a letter from Gov. Maggie Hassan and thanked the agencies, businesses and individuals who helped with the project, a complicated endeavor that came to a standstill for a time during the recession and ran over budget, due to the site’s ledge-filled topography. He also thanked the town of Hanover, which donated the land, for its “commitment to working with us to get (Gile Hill) over the finish line.”

Nadine Salley, of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, lauded Twin Pines for persevering through the long and challenging journey in a part of the state that’s thirsty for affordable places to live.

The rents in this part of the country are very close to what’s being charged in the Boston metropolitan commuter area, Salley said. “The families that live here now and will live here are very deserving recipients of much needed affordable housing.”

The New Hampshire Community Loan Fund was an early lender to the project and later, during the recession, stepped in to help the work continue, Winter said in a phone interview last week. 

Tucked into a hilly area just off Route 120, the development includes 11 buildings, six of which are owned by Twin Pines.

The organization had initially partnered with The Hartland Group to develop Gile Hill, creating the master plan and developing the first 61 rental units and 36 condos, Winter said. It later sold a building pad site to local developer Bill Bittinger, who developed the last eight condos.

Of the 120 units at Gile Hill, 44 are privately owned condominiums, 37 market rate, and seven for moderate-income owners. The remaining 76 are apartments owned by Twin Pines. Of those, 61 are affordable housing, and 15 are market rate.

Gile Hill was one of the largest and more complex projects of its kind in New Hampshire, Winter said.

“We’re extremely proud that we were able to complete this difficult and challenging, at times, project,” he said. “Hanover is one of the most expensive communities in the entire state, and we’re just thrilled that the town had the confidence in Twin Pines to donate property to us for the project and to help us finish it off.”

The new, LEED gold certified building comprises 15 affordable apartments. Rents range from $595 for a one-bedroom apartment, $712 to $868 for a two-bedroom place, and $1,002 for a three-bedroom. Heat and hot water are included. 

In a news release earlier this month, Twin Pines said nine will go to households earning up to 50 percent of the area median income for Grafton County, $32,150 for a family of three. The other six are reserved for households earning up to 60 percent of the area median income, or about $38,500.

So far, 11 of the apartments have been rented, and Twin Pines is accepting applications for the remaining four.

Despite heavy rains, the recent ceremony, held in a tent set up alongside the new building, attracted a standing-room-only crowd.

“I’m so happy to be here,” said Gregg Gossens, the development’s lead architect, as people filed in.

Gile Hill was designed to be almost like an Italian hill town, with the road kind of weaving around, Gossens said. 

The buildings are compact, for a smaller footprint, and covered with wood harvested onsite, stained gray to match the trees, he said. “We wanted them to fit the landscape.”

The trees are part of what resident Sabina Dougherty, 60, loves about her apartment, in another part of the development.

“I get to see pops of colors through the evergreens,” she said. “It feels very secluded. It’s just lovely, very peaceful.”

Finding affordable housing that met her health requirements was a yearlong struggle, said Dougherty, who has severe allergies to pets, cigarette smoke and molds, which are often present in old buildings.

“There are landlords in the Upper Valley ... asking astronomical prices (for places) no human being would want to live in,” she said. There needs to be more affordable housing, “and it needs to be in better shape than it is.”

Dougherty works part time as an administrative assistant and also makes jewelry and fiber arts, which she sells online and in local stores.

Since moving to Gile Hill last year, she’s been able to decrease her allergy medications and do more work on her jewelry than anyplace she’s ever lived, she said. “It’s just uplifting, and your attitude ... affects your art.”

Her grown children live in Lebanon and help her when she needs it, said Dougherty, who has a bad knee and is sometimes afflicted with tremors. And she’s made friends with her neighbors, who lend a hand when she’s carrying groceries or taking garbage to the dumpster.

Gile Hill “was like a new beginning,” she said. “It felt like a gift from God.”

Aimee Caruso can be reached at acaruso@vnews.com or 603-727-3210.