Rosemary M. Heard, President and CEO, CATCH Neighborhood Housing
The Endicott Hotel, a historic landmark in downtown Concord, NH, needed rehabilitation and its residents needed services for individuals with very low incomes and mental health issues. CATCH developed a plan to restore the building, find appropriate housing solutions for residents and create a long-term source of funding for programs.
CATCH Neighborhood Housing, founded in 1989, envisions a community where every person is confident of a home. The organization develops and rehabilitates affordable rental apartments, provides homebuyer and financial fitness education and offers property, asset and financial management services.
CATCH recognizes the need for supportive housing for low-income individuals with mental illnesses and worked with a local mental health service provider to rehabilitate the Endicott Hotel in Concord, N.H. into apartments targeted at this population. The mental health organization would provide case management services, while CATCH would manage the affordable apartments. Unfortunately, a lack of funding caused the other organization to withdraw from that arrangement, leaving CATCH with a property that was restricted to extremely low-income individuals.
Rents were kept low for affordability, but there was a gap in resources to maintain and update the historic building while meeting the needs of the building’s residents and the community at large.
Adding to the challenge, the residents at the Endicott had extremely low incomes and many had mental health issues that would have made an interruption in their housing nearly impossible to handle. CATCH’s Board of Directors realized the impact of construction and relocation could be disastrous for many residents, yet the only available choices were to relocate the residents and complete a gut rehabilitation of the Endicott or to continue with the status quo.
In the fall of 2010, CATCH completed construction on a new downtown rental development, Mennino Place, a Gold LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building with 45 affordable apartments. Mennino Place offered an opportunity to provide accessible, affordable housing in downtown Concord while renovating the Endicott. After months of consideration, CATCH’s Board of Directors voted to completely rehabilitate the Endicott Hotel into market rate apartments. The staff worked with local service providers to find new homes for the current residents.
The residents all found homes that were still affordable and in many cases met their needs better than the Endicott. Several moved into Mennino Place, some moved closer to family, while others were able to move into a facility that provided specialized care, such as a veteran’s home.
CATCH purchased the first-floor commercial spaces in order to comprehensively restore the building. The Endicott Hotel has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1987 and our renovations returned the building’s storefronts to their historic beauty, refurbished the brick façade and restored the Endicott’s distinctive oriel tower.
A few weeks after the last resident moved out, a restaurant on the first floor of the Endicott Hotel caught fire. The fire spread quickly throughout the eastern side of the building, but was contained by the Concord Fire Department. The damage from the fire itself was not extensive, though most of the building was saturated with water and smoke. However, if we had not decided to renovate when we did, the outcome could have been tragic. Though we had already planned to bring the building up to current code, this served as a reminder to always keep the well-being of our residents and their safety at the forefront of our decision making.
The Endicott provides a previously unavailable resource for Concord’s downtown: market-rate housing. Because of zoning regulations, most of Concord’s downtown storefronts have offices or vacant space in their upper floors. The Endicott was the first test of demand for downtown market-rate housing. Based on its success, the city government is hopeful that more property owners will follow suit.
The Endicott’s apartments and storefronts provide a steady source of income for CATCH’s mission-focused programs. Both apartments and retail spaces were quickly leased.
Through this redevelopment project we learned to be creative in our approach to long-term sustainability and hope to be a model for other nonprofits. Renting market-rate apartments in Concord’s downtown fills a community need and allows CATCH to fulfill its mission for years to come.