Owner puts Royal Gardens apartments on the market
Hindus in Concord sing and dance outside of the Royal Gardens Apartments celebrate Diwali, a holiday that celebrates the goddess Lakshmi; November 13, 2012. (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)
The Royal Gardens apartments in Concord are up for sale, just months after the owners promised a major renovation of the subsidized housing complex.
Castor Housing Associates, an affiliate of Wishrock Investment Group and Wishcamper Cos., bought the complex on the Heights for $22.8 million in November 2012. Construction was supposed to begin in January on a new community building and upgrades for each of the 300 apartments, but the work never started.
About 700 people live at the complex, and more than 250 of the apartments are available for households using federal Section 8 vouchers.
Mark Brooks, vice president of special projects for Wishcamper Cos., confirmed the sale listing yesterday.
“No decision has been made ultimately on what we’re going to do with the project,” Brooks said.
The company had planned to pay for the renovation with low-income tax credits from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority. Chris Miller, the authority’s managing director of management and development, said the two parties had been working together on financing for the nearly $15 million construction project.
“It was ready to go forward, and then they just simply made the calculated decision to try to get a better return by selling the property,” Miller said.
The company last met with the authority’s staff to talk about the renovations in early February, Miller said.
“A couple days later, they called to inform us that they had decided that they were simply going to put the property up for sale, having been convinced by their real estate broker that they could do better financially doing that instead,” Miller said.
“It’s a really sad decision on their part,” he added.
Putting the property on the market doesn’t mean it will actually be sold, Brooks said, and going forward with the renovation is still an option. The complex is listed without an asking price through Marcus & Millichap, a national real estate broker based in Michigan.
“I guess we’re just constantly weighing the alternatives, what’s available to us,” Brooks said. “It got harder and harder to put a tax credit deal together, and sale was an option . . . as is the rehabilitation of the tax credit deal.”
He couldn’t say which is the more likely course of action.
“I don’t think at this time I could honestly give you a firm grip on that,” Brooks said. “We’re still weighing the options.”
Built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the apartments operated for many years under two separate contracts with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Concord Gardens and Royal Gardens. When Castor Housing purchased the complex a year and a half ago, all 27 buildings were renamed Royal Gardens.
Property Manager Dawn Wilson said the planned renovations would have been the largest overhaul the complex has ever seen.
“Never,” Wilson said of the last similar project.
“I was ecstatic, because it needs to be updated,” she added.
Wilson praised her staff, which she said works hard to keep the complex running smoothly. They had been looking forward to the planned community building most of all, she said. Right now, the complex does not have any indoor gathering space.
“I wanted the community building,” Wilson said. “I wanted that community atmosphere for everyone on the property.”
More than 300 children live among the roughly 700 Royal Gardens residents, Wilson said. As she walked through the apartments this week, two little boys sped past on tricycles, one red and one bright pink. Wilson waved at the woman who trailed them with a watchful eye, and they shared a laugh at the race.
“You want the family atmosphere,” Wilson said. “You want them to feel safe.”
As part of the design approved by the Concord Planning Board in October, each apartment was going to get new doors and windows, a new kitchen and an upgraded bathroom. Like Wilson, the residents were disappointed to learn the construction was on hold.
“It’s just that we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Wilson said. “They were looking forward to a change, too.”
Brooks said the company should have “a clearer view” of the path forward for Royal Gardens in 30 to 60 days.
“We’ve had pretty strong interest in the property,” he said.
In the meantime, Wilson, her staff and the residents at Royal Gardens will wait for the next word.
“I’m sure the owner will work it out the way he needs to. . . . I wish that I could just wave the magic wand,” Wilson said.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)