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Improvements on the way for Royal Gardens apartments

The Royal Gardens apartments on the Heights are about to get a major face-lift.

The subsidized housing complex off East Side Drive in Concord will soon have a new community center. And each of the 300 apartments will undergo interior renovations, as the Maine-based company that purchased the property late last year moves forward with plans for improvements.

“It’s all positive, and it’s nice to have a change,” said Dawn Wilson, who works on-site as property manager.

Wilson said construction is set to begin in January, pending approval tomorrow from the Concord Planning Board, as well as other permits. The rental office is beginning to move some residents, making space to renovate one building at a time. Tenants will not be displaced from the complex during construction.

Castor Housing Associates purchased the low-income and federally subsidized complex for $22.8 million last November. While the sale did not bring changes to daily operations at the apartment complex, the new owners said after the sale that site improvements would come in 2014.

The apartments, built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, operated under two separate contracts with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Concord Gardens and Royal Gardens. Castor Housing, an affiliate of Wishrock Investment Group and the Wishcamper Cos., purchased both properties and renamed the entire complex Royal Gardens. Together, they total 27 buildings and 300 apartment units.

The 3,000-square-foot community building will be built between the two complexes in an area that is now a parking lot, said Assistant City Planner Steve Henninger. The apartment complex does not have an indoor gathering space for its residents.

“That’s why I’m so excited for that, because there’s so many agencies that now are going to be able to come to the property and entertain the kids and the elderly,” said Wilson, who has worked as property manager for several years.

Wilson said the community building will include the rental office, a Concord police substation, a community room and computers that tenants can use.

“It is a Section 8 property, so you know some properties do get labeled,” Wilson said, in a reference to the government subsidy, “and it will be nice to be able to make the community service better.”

Wilson said plans include new kitchens, bathrooms, windows and doors inside each apartment.

The exterior site plans show decks and patios for each unit, and freestanding storage sheds, Henninger said. He said the project is also aimed at improving energy efficiency; solar panels will be installed on the roof of each building.

Bryan Shumway, president of Wishcamper Cos., said the company is looking forward to beginning construction.

“We’re really excited about it,” he said.

Henninger noted that while the project is not bringing new development to Concord, “sometimes the restoration and regeneration of some old retired projects can have a greater impact on the community.”

Tenants have not been formally notified of the coming changes, Wilson said, because the company is still completing the permitting and approval process. But she thinks they will welcome the upgrades.

“We have some long-term residents that it will be nice to have a change for them, a new perspective,” she said.

The site plans will go before the Concord Planning Board tomorrow for a public hearing and vote. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the city council’s chambers on Green Street.

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

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