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January 09. 2013 10:14PM

Nonprofit secures multi-million loan for work-force housing in Dover

DOVER - A Portsmouth-based nonprofit housing organization received a $6 million loan to transform a 19th-century factory into 42 units of work-force housing within walking distance of the downtown.

On Wednesday, Centrix Bank announced it will provide a $5.9 million construction loan to help the Housing Partnership renovate a 58,000-square-foot brick building, which was built in 1885 and will be known as Woodbury Mills. City Planner Steve Bird said this is a great use of a building, located at Park and Dover streets, which has been previously used as a storage site for Robbins Auto Parts.

"It certainly is what I'd classify as an underused building," Bird said, adding this is the latest project to bring new life into the many historic mills around the city.

Bird said many other mills have been converted to provide homes and commercial space. He added the city just approved a project for 120 residential units in Cocheco Mills. He said members of the Housing Partnership brought the proposal to the Planning Board, which approved it in June.

It's easy to see how creating work-force housing in Woodbury Mills will benefit the area as about 80 percent of the city's 18,000 employees commute to jobs in Dover, according to Dan Barufaldi, economic development director.

"The work force is growing in Dover," Barufaldi said. "We're the fastest growing community in New Hampshire." Barufaldi expects work to begin inside the building before groundbreaking occurs in the spring.

The project is expected to be complete by next January.

"It certainly will upgrade the neighborhood," Barufaldi said, adding the project will also help efforts to make Dover a "vibrant community."

Centrix, which is headquartered in Bedford, has financed a number of housing projects throughout the state and keeps a close relationship with nonprofit organizations like the Housing Partnership, according to David Cassidy, executive vice president at the bank. After helping to finance a project to build 22 units senior housing at Rye Airfield, which was completed last year, Cassidy said Woodbury Mills is the second time Centrix has worked with the Housing Partnership.

In 1988, businesses, residents and members of the United Way created The Housing Partnership to help provide affordable housing and related services. Since then the organization has developed more than 312 homes for low and moderate-income residents in the Seacoast area and Maine, according to its website, housingpartnership.org

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