WCAX: Vergennes senior living facility prepares for major renovation

A multi-million project is about to break ground in Vergennes that will provide housing for low-income seniors, and revitalize a historic Vergennes building.

Rebecca Hassan surveys a large white building opposite Vergennes City Park where, in a few weeks, construction crews will get to work on Vergennes Grand Senior Living.

“I think people are really excited. It’s been a long time coming,” said Hassan. who along with her husband, bought the property in 2019. A senior living facility since 1965, the couple planned to renovate the existing facility. Then COVID hit, raising costs and leading their original lender to back down.

“We ran it for a few years, a little longer than we expected to. Fast forward a few years and we now have a group of local investors — which is wonderful,” Hassan said.

They secured an $18 million loan last month from the USDA, the last bit needed to fund the project. Current residents were relocated to the Hassan’s Gazebo Senior Living in South Burlington for the construction phase, which is expected to finish in January 2025.

The new facility will house up to 85 residents, five times that of the previous facility. Many of those residents will be low-income. “We have committed to set aside at least 30% of our apartments for residents who are in the Medicaid program,” Hassan said.

Tracey Shamberger with Age Well, an aging advocacy nonprofit, says Vergennes Grand will answer a growing call for affordable housing for older Vermonters. One in three Vermonters will be over age sixty by 2030, according to the Department of Health, and many will struggle to afford housing. “The more planning we can do as a state, the more support we can provide to people as they move along in the aging process,” Shamberger said.

And many city officials see the development as a financial win. An economic impact analysis estimates the facility will bring in nearly $390,000 to the city. It will also create an additional 39 jobs, which the Hassans hope to fill with locals.

However, some community members didn’t want to alter the circa 1800s property that is part of the city’s historic district. In response, the Hassans went through a lengthy process to prove the building no longer had historic value due to alterations over the years. They also committed to restoring some aspects of the original design. “It’s not a full historic restoration but we are trying to bring back as much of the character from the original Italianate building that we can,” she said.

The Hassans say their phones have been ringing nonstop and they already have some residents on the waitlist.

By: Sophia Thomas

Click here to read the full article.