Lebanon’s Rogers House Seeks Grants for Renovations

Tuesday, September 01, 2015
Lebanon — If two pending grant applications are approved, Rogers House, a century-old Lebanon senior housing complex facing Colburn Park, may get a sprucing up inside and out.

One grant, if approved, would go to support energy improvements such as insulation, new water heaters and lighting. The second would go toward exterior improvements intended to restore historic elements of the four-story former hotel next to City Hall.

“The idea is to put the building back to something of what it once was,” said Shelley Hadfield, a special projects consultant for Lebanon.

The brick building adorned with four Ionic columns in the front was originally constructed in 1911, according to a National Register of Historic Places nomination. George Rogers, a woolen industrialist, contributed $25,000 toward the building’s construction, while Lebanon — which was then a town — contributed $70,000. It was designed by Boston architect John Fox.

Hotel Rogers closed in the 1960s and the Lebanon Housing Authority took ownership in the early 1970s. In its 56 apartments, the building now houses low-income seniors or people with disabilities who are 55 or older. The rent is fixed at roughly 30 percent of a household’s 

Though the building improvements may total more than $1 million, Hadfield said the investment would be worth it.

“We have some of our most vulnerable seniors living there,” she said.

The housing authority has requested approximately $300,000 from the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program for facade improvements. The City Council will determine whether to set a public hearing on the LCHIP grant application at its meeting on Wednesday.

The facade improvements, as proposed, would include painting of the cornices, repairing railings on the second floor balcony, fixing the columns, replacing windows, repointing bricks, redesigning the entrance to improve handicapped-accessibility and adding a new door at the entrance.

“Like any aging structure, having endured 104 unforgiving New Hampshire winters of snow and ice, there are necessary projects that become apparent and are critical for the preservation of the building and the protection and basic comfort of its occupants,” according to information provided to the City Council.

Earlier this summer, the council agreed to put forward a community development block grant application on behalf of the Lebanon Housing Authority for $500,000 for the energy improvements. Hadfield said she expects to hear whether the housing authority will receive the money from the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority in early November.

Both grants would be passed through the city before going to the housing authority.

The energy improvements would include insulating the exterior walls, attic, basement and the wood panels surrounding the windows and replacing lighting and water heaters. In the individual dwelling units, plans include adding insulation in the ceilings, replacing thermostats and electric baseboard heaters and installing low-flow hand-held showerheads and kitchen faucets.

While work is ongoing in individual apartments, the housing authority would be responsible for assisting occupants in finding alternative housing at a hotel or in Rogers House apartments kept vacant for temporary housing, Lebanon Housing Authority Executive Director Ditha Alonso told the council during a meeting to consider the community development block grant application in June.

Alonso declined to answer questions about the projects via email on Monday, citing the uncertainty that the housing authority would receive the grants.

“It’s just too premature and would only get people’s hopes up,” she said.

She indicated that some energy work — including installing energy-efficient light fixtures, bulbs, bathroom exhaust fans, thermostats and attic insulation — has already begun with support from Liberty Utilities and Tri-County Community Action Program.

“Liberty Utilities and Tri-Cap have been proactive partners in joining forces with LHA to help improve and make rental units more comfortable and energy efficient for the residents who live in them,” she said in the email.

The City Council’s meeting to include discussion of whether to set a public hearing for the LCHIP grant is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday at City Hall.

Should the council opt to file the application, Hadfield said she expects to hear whether the city will receive the LCHIP grant in early December.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

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