MIDDLEBURY — Developers of Eastview at Middlebury on Tuesday officially landed $1 million in federal aid that is expected to allow for an Oct. 1 groundbreaking on the planned 99-unit retirement community next to the Porter Medical Center campus off South Street.
Gov. James Douglas delivered the news in the form of a large, symbolic novelty check to Eastview principal Rob Alberts in a ceremony at the edge of the large, Middlebury College-owned field on which the project will be built.
“This grant provides the final piece of the puzzle that will not only allow Eastview to create 45 quality, permanent jobs, but up to 100 jobs during construction,” Alberts said in a brief speech during which he thanked the project’s lenders and supporters.
It was the promised infusion of 45 new jobs into the Addison County economy that helped clinch the $1 million in aid for Eastview, noted Josh Hanford, director of the Vermont Community Development Program, which annually disburses around $7 million in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money to projects around the state.
“If (the project) is successful, we are going to get all this money back so we can give it out in other grants,” Hanford said.
In essence, the $1 million will be available for Eastview developers to use as leverage in accessing loans and financing from banks and other sources. It can also be tapped as a contingency fund. Eastview will access the money through the town of Middlebury, if it needs to do so.
“Basically, this is a letter of credit — like a reserve fund, an escrow,” Hanford explained. “This project is being financed by banks and privately, but with the economy and financial situation we are in right now, they wanted some additional security, so this is just going to literally back up those funds in case something goes wrong.”
Ideally, Hanford explained, Eastview won’t need to touch the $1 million and it will be returned to the state to aid other projects.
Along with creating 45 new jobs and another settlement option for seniors, Eastview’s presence is expected to provide some financial stability for the neighboring nursing home, Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. Porter Medical Center is sub-leasing to Eastview the Middlebury College-owned land on which the retirement community will be located. Eastview will pay in excess of $200,000 annually for that sub-lease, funds that will be used to defray operating costs at Helen Porter nursing home.
It was back in 2005 that the Middlebury Planning Commission granted local permitting for Eastview’s 30 cottages, 32 independent living apartments, 18 apartments for seniors who need assistance and 19 for those who suffer from memory loss ailments. Planned community facilities include a lobby, dining room, private dining room, café, country kitchen, media room/auditorium, fitness studio, and hair salon. The center will also feature such services as an emergency response system, 24-hour staffing, dining service, housekeeping, transportation, and a full range of assisted living services.
Alberts said Eastview has been fielding many pre-orders on its available units, in spite of the sluggish economy.
Eastview had been on hold for the past several years due to a South Street resident’s lengthy appeal of the project’s Act 250 permit. Eastview prevailed in that appeal, which was ultimately adjudicated by the Vermont Supreme Court.
Douglas credited Eastview backers for sticking with the project through the long litigation.
“We are really grateful for your perseverance, Rob,” Douglas said.
“It is nice to see this come to fruition.”
He noted that as the state with the second-oldest population, Vermont will need more senior housing options such as Eastview and the already established Lodge at Otter Creek off Middle Road.
“Middlebury is a great place to live,” Douglas said. “Perhaps it will be local folks in their later years, perhaps it might be alums from the college who return and find an opportunity to enjoy their golden years. Whoever it might be, Eastview will provide a nice place to live and spend some quality time.”
Alberts said Tuesday’s CDBG award was critical in getting Eastview off and running. He credited Burlington-based Third Sector Associates for putting together the successful CDBG grant application in around 10 days.
“The one thing that has always kept me going has been the future residents,” said Alberts, whose parents — present at Tuesday’s ceremony — will also live in the Eastview community. “That has been the key thing.”
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.