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College buys land to build affordable housing in Middlebury

Middlebury College has bought 35 acres off Seminary Street Extension that will host new housing for 100 families.
Map courtesy of Google Maps

“This collaboration has the potential to positively impact this community for generations.”
— developer Zeke Davisson

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College on Friday announced it is part of a $40 million project to build 100 units of affordable housing within walking distance of downtown.

The college has acquired a 35-acre parcel on Seminary Street Extension in Middlebury that Summit Properties of South Burlington will develop into 100 units of affordable and workforce housing. The housing will be available to members of the public who qualify regardless of where they work.

The property is east of Seminary Street Extension’s intersection with Washington Street, generally in the area of Valley View Road — on the north side of Seminary Street Extension.

The college bought the property, which had been for sale for several years, from Marjorie Mooney for $1.5 million and will sell it to Summit in increments as the company develops the property. The estimated cost of the development is $40 million.

“Middlebury College’s goal with this project is to support one of the community’s greatest challenges — affordable housing,” said David Provost, executive vice president for finance and administration at Middlebury. “The college’s ability to attract and retain faculty and staff is dependent on the economic development of the town of Middlebury, Addison County, and the state of Vermont. This provides the beginning of a solution for the college, Porter Medical Center, and all businesses in the region.”

Middlebury President Laurie Patton said there is an urgent need to increase the availability of housing in Addison County.

“Our faculty and staff know about the scarcity of housing firsthand, and we hear about these ongoing concerns from our human resources office, local businesses and other nonprofits,” she said. “We saw an opportunity to help with a problem that we all share. I’m delighted that we will be able to help with the needs of businesses and organizations of the town and county, who are our valued partners on so many levels.”

Brian Carpenter, Middlebury selectboard chair, said the new development is an exciting chance to address a long-standing issue.

“Housing is a challenge for employers in the area when they try to hire new staff as well as when we try to attract new business to the region,” he said.

Carpenter noted that the property is zoned for high-density housing and is located in an area that is walking distance from downtown Middlebury.

“Summit Properties is excited to work with Middlebury College, the town of Middlebury, and the entire Addison County community to tackle the housing challenges faced by the people and businesses who call this community home,” said Zeke Davisson, COO of Summit Properties. “Summit has a long history of providing affordable housing throughout the state and region, including right here in Addison County, so we see the need every day. This collaboration has the potential to positively impact this community for generations.”

Each housing unit will have one to four bedrooms so that the development will supply housing for a total of about 250-350 people. The mix of housing types — apartments, multifamily houses and single family homes — will be determined at a later time. Summit intends to sell some units and rent others. The company expects to begin construction within eight months and to develop the property over the next five to six years.

Household income determines whether a family or individual qualifies for workforce or affordable housing. The range of income for residents of workforce housing — which in Addison County is approximately $50,000 to $80,000 for a household of two — is higher than that for affordable housing, which is less than approximately $50,000 for a household of two. Summit plans to work with local housing partners and nonprofit organizations on the project.

WHAT’S UP WITH THE BIG OLD HOUSE?

Aside from new housing to be built in the field, the 35 acres includes a nine-bedroom house at 51 Seminary Street Ext. that sits on the edge of the property. The stately old building, known to some as the Means House, is in need of renovation and repair. College administrators plan to sell the house and are working with potential buyers to explore various uses for the structure.

Summit Properties, which initially approached the college about partnering in an effort to increase the housing supply in the Middlebury area, provides development, leasing and property management services to affordable and market-rate apartment buildings and owners throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and upstate New York.

“This project will truly support our local workforce,” Selectman Carpenter said. “I’m glad that Middlebury College had the vision to see what was possible.”

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