The entrance to Millbrook Estates. Some of the building’s siding is buckling, which is caused by faulty airflow, according to Westbrook Housing Director Chris Laroche. Chance Viles / American Journal

Westbrook Housing plans $10 million in improvements for the Millbrook Estates complex to make it more energy efficient and provide better accessibility to seniors and those with physical disabilities.

Air circulation and retainment issues that lead to a loss of heat in the winter and cause very hot apartments in the summer will be fixed, according to Westbrook Housing Director Chris LaRoche. Kitchens and bathrooms will get handicapped accessible and senior-friendly  renovations.

With preliminary approval from the City Council last week, Laroche hopes the work can get underway this October at the 300 E. Bridge St.  complex.

“The building seriously leaks energy, and we’ve planned work on this going back to 2013,” Laroche said. “Last year, even with the air conditioner, some apartments were in the 90s.”

Based on a study from two years ago, Laroche estimates that with proper energy retention, Westbrook Housing could save over $2,500 a month at today’s fuel prices. Engineers are working on exact figures.

A mailroom for package delivery will be added, windows will be replaced and the building’s siding will be repaired. A number of other “quality of life improvements” also will be made to common spaces, hallways and other areas, LaRoche said. Kitchens will be modernized.

“We desperately need new windows, but it is not bad here. We are all excited about the fixes,” resident Diane Allen told the American Journal.

Once interior renovation plans are finalized, work will begin on empty units. When those are complete, residents will move into empty units  while their apartment is worked on.

The project is funded through a tax deal with the city where Westbrook Housing agrees to a minimum annual payment of $20,000, which will increase by 2% each year over the 30-year life of the agreement.

Ward 1 Councilor David Morse, who represents Millbrook’s neighborhood, said the project is important in maintaining community connections for seniors who have aged out of their homes.

“I think about when (former Councilor) Ann Peoples’ husband passed away. She didn’t need the house but was on Council and in the Legislature and wanted to stay in Westbrook. She went to Millbrook before she passed away,” Morse said. “That’s really important that we not only work on adding opportunities for seniors but maintaining the stock we do have here.”

A normal photo of the building on the left, with a thermal imaging shot on the right. The orange and warmer colors in the thermal image show where heat is lost. Orange lines running along the siding indicate faulty airflow. Contributed / Westbrook Housing

 

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