Satter House gets $4m to update

Stimulus project will save energy

By John Laidler
Globe Correspondent / April 11, 2010

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A subsidized senior housing community in Revere plans major improvements to reduce its energy and water consumption as a result of a $4 million federal stimulus award announced last week.

The Jack Satter House, which provides independent, supportive housing for 300 low-income people 62 and older, is among about 200 recipients nationwide of $250 million awarded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Green Retrofit Program for Multifamily Housing.

The Revere Beach Boulevard facility, which is owned by the Boston-based nonprofit Hebrew SeniorLife, expects to reduce its annual utility costs by $180,000 through the upgrade, which will include installing high-efficiency gas-fired boilers and low-flow toilets, faucet aerators, and shower heads.

“We were thrilled when we learned that HUD was making this award,’’ said Len Fishman, CEO of Hebrew SeniorLife, noting that the grant process was highly competitive and the Satter House received the maximum amount allowable.

“This is allowing us to do major infrastructure improvements that we would have had to do anyway over time but can now accelerate, and in the process create jobs and save energy beginning this year,’’ he added.

The retrofits also will include replacing the existing refrigerators and air conditioners in the apartments with new energy-efficient units, and installing a gas-fueled cogeneration unit that will supply much of the building’s electricity and serve as a backup heating source. The common hallways on seven floors will be repainted and new carpeting installed, with nontoxic paints and adhesives used to improve air quality.

US Representative Edward J. Markey of Malden and Revere Mayor Thomas G. Ambrosino joined HUD and Hebrew SeniorLife officials at the Jack Satter House Wednesday for an official announcement of the award.

“These important funds will allow the Jack Satter House to reduce utility costs, cut water consumption, and improve indoor air quality, all while enhancing the lives of the seniors who reside here right on the shores of Revere Beach,’’ Markey said in a prepared statement.

The project, which will create an estimated 60 construction jobs, is expected to begin shortly and take about eight months to complete.

Opened in 1978 as one of the nation’s first independent, supportive housing communities, the nine-story, 270,000-square-foot facility has 266 units, including 47 efficiency, 202 one-bedroom, and 17 two-bedroom apartments.

The Revere facility is among five Boston-area senior residences operated by Hebrew SeniorLife, which also has a long-term care facility in Roslindale that includes a research institute on aging.

Residents of the Satter House pay a monthly rent equal to 30 percent of their income after medical expenses. HUD provides subsidies covering the remainder of their rents. Residents, whose average age is 82, live independently, but the staff provides meals, activities such as wellness programs, transportation, and referrals for those who need services.

“We have a population that is aging in place. Our goal is to let people live in the building independently as long as possible,’’ said Stephen Post, the facility’s executive director.

Hebrew SeniorLife had a long-term capital plan that called for replacement of the building’s mechanical systems and other upgrades. In addition to expediting the pace of those improvements, the stimulus money will allow for more extensive work, Post said.

On top of reducing the facility’s costs, the project will contribute to ongoing efforts to make its properties greener, Post said. Hebrew SeniorLife’s newest senior housing community, NewBridge on the Charles in Dedham, includes such environmentally friendly features as a system of 408 geothermal wells that will provide almost all the heating and cooling for the campus.

“We really believe if any organization is doing a development, it has a moral obligation to ask how will [that] development affect the consumption of energy and water, and the emission of greenhouse gases,’’ Fishman said. “And particularly for an organization that serves seniors, we think there is an understanding of the older generation [of the need] to leave the younger generations with a healthy planet.’’

Post noted that the HUD grant requires the Satter House to follow green practices in its future operations, including educating staff and residents about reducing the use of toxic cleaning products. He said residents are fully behind the effort.

“The seniors often at our community meetings have asked us do more to save energy and to do more in terms of recycling,’’ he said.

Ambrosino said the city was very excited to be at this award ceremony, calling the Jack Satter House a “worthy recipient’’ of the funding.

“It’s just a vibrant facility that provides a tremendous quality of life to their seniors,’’ said the Revere mayor.

Ambrosino noted that the award follows other stimulus allocations in Revere, including $23 million for a new MBTA garage at the Wonderland Blue Line station, and $20 million for a public plaza to be built east of the station as part of Waterfront Square at Revere Beach, Eurovest Development’s proposed mixed-use project.

The city also has been awarded about $10 million in stimulus money for its schools, $485,000 to install solar panels on the roof of the Beachmont School, and $600,000 for police and fire staffing.

“Revere has done very well under the federal stimulus,’’ Ambrosino said.

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