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Maine company buys Concord and Royal Gardens apartments for $22 million

The Concord and Royal Gardens apartment complex on the Heights sold for $22.77 million last month to a Maine-based company that develops low-income housing across the country.

Castor Housing Associates, an affiliate of Wishrock Investment Group and Wishcamper Cos., purchased the low-income and federally-subsidized complex last month. The sale won’t bring major changes in day-to-day operations at the apartment complex off East Side Drive, said Bryan Shumway, president of Wishcamper Cos. in Portland, Maine. But the company is planning to renovate the apartments and build a community center for residents in 2014.

The 300 apartments were built about 1970 and have operated under two separate subsidized housing contracts with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Concord Gardens and Royal Gardens. Both complexes were purchased for a combined $22.77 million Nov. 30, and Shumway said the entire complex is now named Royal Gardens.

Site manager Dawn Wilson said Thomas Chamberlain of Massachusetts, the property’s previous owner, sold the apartments because he was ready to retire. Chamberlain did not return a message left yesterday.

Wilson said the transition has been smooth since the sale was completed Nov. 30, and Shumway said his company will be “as much of a continuation of the status quo as possible” for residents.

“We don’t want to be disruptive as new owners, but we hope that we can really improve the things that need improving,” he said.

All 10 staff members at the Concord apartment complex will keep their jobs, Shumway said, and report directly to Preservation Management Inc., a Portland, Maine-based company that will oversee the property on behalf of Wishrock Investment Group.

Wilson, who has worked at the apartments for eight years and has served as manager for the past three years, said residents will not notice a change in rent payments or daily operations.

“We’re still doing it the way that was done before,” Wilson said. “There will be no hardships anywhere.”

Several residents interviewed at the apartment complex yesterday said they recently received a letter about the change in ownership.

“They sent us all a letter and I immediately called and asked if anything was going to change,” said Beren Chalmers, who has lived at Royal Gardens for 14 years.

Chalmers said she loves the rental office employees, and is relieved that they will keep their jobs. She was happy to hear that the new owners are planning renovations.

“That would be great, as long as they don’t up the rent,” Chalmers said.

Wilson said rent will not change; residents like Chalmers who are enrolled in the HUD federal subsidy program do not pay more than 30 percent of their gross annual income in rent.

Residents in 257 of the 300 apartments are enrolled in Section 8, Shumway said. Others pay market-rate rent.

Wilson said rents are based on a number of factors, including income and the size of a family. Residents who qualify for Section 8 do not pay more than 30 percent of their gross annual income in rent.

Wishrock Investment Group is a developer of affordable housing properties, and owns more than 50 properties in 15 states, Shumway said. Royal Gardens is its first Concord property, but the company owns properties in Manchester, Dover and Nashua.

He said the company renovates interiors of apartments after buying them, and tries to complete the work without relocating residents. A community center is also planned for Royal Gardens.

“We’ll generally build a community building on site that houses things like multipurpose meeting rooms and computer centers and also on-site management offices, so it’s a nice space for the residents to use,” Shumway said.

That’s good news to Wilson, who has seen many changes during eight years at the apartment complex, and has been hoping for a community center for years. She worked under former site manager Larry Morgan for her first five years at the complex, and credits him with creating a sense of community. The complex was known for drugs and crime before Morgan took over in 2001; he told the Monitor in 2005 that when he arrived “the situation was so bad, it was almost laughable.”

Since becoming site manager three years ago, Wilson said she’s tried to continue what Morgan started. The complex has about 800 residents, she said, with a diverse refugee population.

“The joy of Section 8 is to get on your feet, if you utilize it in the right way, and make a better life for your family,” she said.

With the help of Wilson and Preservation Management, Shumway said Castor Housing will work to keep the affordable-housing complex affordable for residents.

“We’re committed to high-quality affordable housing that restores the dignity of people’s lives,” Shumway said.

Som Subedi, 20, who lives at the apartment complex with his father, said his family has had a positive experience living at Royal Gardens, and expects it will continue under new ownership.

“Everything is going well,” he said yesterday.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

Legacy Comments8

It is a trap when you get into Section 8. If you get a raise, they raise your rent. You can't save any money to get out from under their thumb. You have to ask someone not connected with your apt. to hold money for you. The only way out is in a body bag or winning the lottery.

A backhanded attempt to slander me by Jonstah. Meanwhile I live rent free in the minds of the wayward left as the symbol of freedom, self reliance and the success that anyone can achieve in this great capitalist nation....a notion the progressive absolutely hate with a passion

Sure am glad. As far as the left is concerned, if you are able to manage your life, your either lucky or greedy. And many of us that came from poverty in childhood, make sure we try harder so as not to fall in the same trap.

14 years, so much for a leg up to get out of poverty.

“The joy of Section 8 is to get on your feet, if you utilize it in the right way, and make a better life for your family,” she said. .............................“They sent us all a letter and I immediately called and asked if anything was going to change,” said Beren Chalmers, who has lived at Royal Gardens for 14 years.

Aren't you glad that you and the rabbit don't have to live there? Aren't you glad that you both have good jobs and are unaffected by this economy?

14 years ago, the economy was roaring. It was all thru the Bush years too. But yes, I am glad I have never had to experience the joy of section 8. You??

Nope, never had the opportunity to experience it, thank God. I know some folks who do though, mostly elderly. If anything it's good for folks to wind up there. The folks I know live in decent apartments and slumlords aren't allowed. I wonder if our old buddy sail owns any?

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