November 17, 2013

First tenants relocate to former Gerald Hotel in Fairfield

The historic building now has 28 apartments for low-income seniors.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FAIRFIELD — It’s been rebuilt and people are coming.

click image to enlarge

Madelaine Baum unpacks in her new fourth-floor apartment in the newly renovated Gerald Hotel in Fairfield.

Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Madelaine Baum was the first. On Monday, she showed up at the renovated Gerald Hotel with 62 boxes of her personal belongings, one of the first people in decades to live in the historic building.

Baum, a former employee of Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan, said her home in that town was too expensive and too much work.

She appreciates both the modern conveniences – such as the wireless Internet access for her home computer – as well as the historical features, like the molded woodwork and the stained glass in the common areas, of the structure now known as the Gerald Senior Residence.

“It’s a lovely historic building,” she said.

The former hotel, built by Amos F. Gerald in 1900 for affluent tourists, hasn’t functioned as a residence since 1937. It was most recently occupied by the Northern Mattress and Furniture Gallery, which closed in 2006.

After years of planning and construction, workers are still putting the final touches on the $6.5 million building renovation. Baum and her fourth-floor neighbor are its first tenants.

More will soon follow, according to Meg Varney, an occupancy specialist with property managers C&C Realty.

The next order of business for the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, the new owner, is ensuring that the building is fully occupied by May 1. If the building’s 28 units are not filled by then, the project will lose much of its funding, which came in the form of state and federal tax credits.

Some of the tax credits were leveraged because the project accomplishes the twin goals of preserving a historic building and providing housing to low-income seniors. If the building remained vacant, the tax credits would have to be repaid.

“We definitely want to get people in as soon as possible,” Varney said.

So far, the signs are good. Over the past year, the community action program has kept a waiting list of people interested in moving in, and Varney said she expects half of the units to be occupied within a few weeks.

While only a few tenants have received final approval, about a dozen more are expected to move in within the next week or two.

The 14 applications that have been approved or are nearing approval are a fraction of the total received, Varney said. Many applicants were screened out early in the process, often because they either mistakenly think that the housing is subsidized, or because they make too much money to qualify.

In order to qualify, most tenants must be 55 years or older and have an annual income of at least $15,000 but no more than $22,380. A two-person household must have a combined income of no more than $25,560.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:

mhhetling@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @hh_matt

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