Certificate of Occupancy issued for apartments

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 7:30pm
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For the past 17 months, members of the Harbor Church and many, many members of the Block Island community have worked very hard to convert the third floor of the Harbor Church into four year-round, affordable apartments. And on Friday, Feb. 8 at about 11 a.m., the Town of New Shoreham Building Official signed the Certificate of Occupancy, bringing these great efforts to a successful and exciting culmination. The four units are ready for occupancy and the tenants have already started the process of moving in.

 A major goal of the project was to help stabilize and make more viable our year-round community. Through an open application process, four tenants who met town and state qualifications were selected in November. One woman has lived and served on Block Island for over 20 years (yes, years) and this is her first year-round housing. Another couple have moved seven times in less than two years and were about to give up on their dream of living on Block Island when they were notified that they were “in.” Another person is an important town employee and the last is a local businessman, working hard to make a permanent go of it. The Harbor Church and all our community supporters are thrilled to be able to extend to such persons safe and stable housing. The units, though basically the same size, each have some particulars. And miraculously, each prospective tenant was matched to an apartment that met their preferences.

The apartments, though not overly spacious, are one-bedroom units with brand new and efficient kitchens and baths. Stunning views are to be seen out of each hurricane-rated window. Scores of islanders have toured the apartments over the last few months as they received their finishing touches; the universal reaction was, “Wow! These are beautiful!”

Special thanks to Herman Mast, who acted as the project manager and gave countless volunteer hours of skilled management and hands-on work to see this program through to completion. Also, his wife Linda finalized the design. Major funding came from certain organizations that partnered with us to achieve this goal: The Roosa Fund, the Champlin Foundation, The B.I. Lions Club, The Mary D. Fund and the Block Island Fund. Our very generous Admiral- and Commodore-level donors include Melissa Hempstead, Josie Merck, Kay and Keith Lewis, Sonny and Carol Kern, Timothy and Becky Clark, Will and Penny Young, Barby and Doug Michel, Bob and Carolyn Benjamin, Dotty and Dale Fox, Cindy and Tony Pappas, Pat and John Podkowsky, Ken and Stephanie Knapp, and some anonymous friends. Many, many others, 76 to be exact, contributed generously at the “Captain” and “First Mate” levels. The four residents and the Harbor Church express a huge thank you to all who made this vision become a reality.

After a unanimous vote of the church body in September of 2017, the extensive process of attaining zoning approval and the building permit was begun. The designation “affordable” allowed the density to go from two units to four; the proposed project met all of the Comprehensive Plan’s criteria for affordable housing. So also, a big thank you to all the boards and officials of the town who gave a “thumbs up” to this vision. The apartments are managed by the HBC Affordable Apartments corporation which is a separate corporation from the Harbor Church.

This is a great moment for the island, as four of our neighbors obtain their dream of year-round housing. But there is much more work to be done. The State Fire Marshal was very supportive of this effort even as he enforced the code. But once he enters a building, the whole structure is subject to the new, tight state fire regulations. Thus, our work is not done. We must bring the rest of the building up to the code. That consists of about 20 items, some cheap and quick, but three are quite expensive and complicated. The church’s Campaign for the Future capital fund drive will resume its efforts to accomplish this remaining goal. If you would care to contribute to this final phase, please send your gift to the Harbor Church, P.O. Box D2, Block Island, R.I. 02807. All gifts are tax deductible.

And thank you so very much for your support!