The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 6, 2009

Plans unveiled for Benfield senior affordable housing

Roughly 35 people attended the Housing Authority meeting on February 27 where a team from Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) presented their plan to build affordable rental housing for seniors on a portion of the town-owned Benfield Land on South Street. The housing will be in a single structure varying between two and three stories high, containing 17 one-bedroom units and nine two-bedroom units (see plans below.) To fit with the character of Carlisle, the structure will be designed to resemble a large house with an attached red barn and silo.

View of building facing the entrance, as seen from the parking area. (Adapted from NOAH plan by Marjorie Johnson)

NOAH has been in the business of building affordable housing for 20 years and will both construct and manage the rental housing. The firm is currently negotiating a long-term ground lease with the town.

NOAH architect Frank Valdez gave an overview of the development. The building is to be located at an angle from South Street with a north-south orientation to maximize natural lighting. Several of the main designers are LEED-certified and the building will include “green” and sustainable aspects, such as energy-efficient fixtures, glass and insulation.

Carlisle Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett told the crowd that there are more than 50 people in town on the “Interest List” for the 26 housing units and the list is growing.

Interior spaces

The main entrance will lead to a well-lit two-story area. The office and elevator will be located here, along with a community room complete with fireplace and kitchenette, which could hold about 35 people. Across the corridor from this room will be the doorway to a covered patio. Several people in the audience asked if the community room could be enlarged as the seniors in Carlisle are an active group and the room could be used for exercise, crafts and social events. NOAH Executive Director Philip Giffee said he would work with the Housing Authority and the Council on Aging (COA) to try to accommodate this request.

The “silo” will contain one of the building’s three stairwells. Plans call for a greenhouse and a sunroom on the third floor and a game room on the second floor. Each floor will have a laundry. There will be no basement as the structure will be built on a slab.

NOAH presented this design for a two-bedroom unit.

The one-bedroom units will be roughly 500 square feet, while the two-bedroom units will be about 750 square feet in size. Valdez described how elements such as window design and interior paint color would be used to maximize the perception of spaciousness. “The kitchen is open with a full view [of the windows.]” He added, “The size of the windows is critical….There is a sense of great space.” Valdez continued, “The design will maximize sunlight and minimize [the need for] artificial light.”

NOAH presented this design for a one-bedroom unit.

Several in the audience questioned the size of the units and Bert Williams asked if the units could be larger. Housing Authority Chair Alan Lehotsky said, “The RFP [Request For Proposal] specifically asked for these sizes,” emphasizing that these are affordable units. They will be similar in size to the 525 square-foot senior housing at the Carlisle Village Court development on Church Street (see

Housing will be near the road, while the well is to be sited in the interior of the 45-acre Benfield parcel. (Map sketched by Marjorie Johnson)

All the Benfield units will have walk-in closets. The apartments will be handicapped-accessible with bathrooms designed to be large enough to include a wheelchair turning radius.


A loop road with two entrances on South Street “is great for safety and good for drop-off,” said Valdez. Parking will be in the back of the building, so most will not be visible from the road. There will be an eighth of a mile walkway around the building.

The height of the building, 35 feet on the three-story side, was also discussed. Lehotsky pointed out, “It is backed against taller trees. Also there are a lot of three-story homes on West Street.” Barnett noted that most homes built in Carlisle over the last five or six years have been three stories in height.

Professional engineer and Senior Project Manager Mark Beaudry of Meridian Associates spoke about the landscaping. “We will retain existing vegetation around the site and add additional screening on the easterly side.” He said the building was set back from the road by 50 feet and was 100 feet from any property line.

“The intent is to use native species [that can withstand drought],” said Beaudry. There will be some sod around the building that will transition to meadow. Low impact development techniques will be used to minimize water use. Along the road, Beaudry said, “We will use selective clusters of trees to provide broken views of the building.”

The well for the facility will be located far back on the 45-acre property, toward the portion of the land reserved for a future athletic field. There will be a 487-foot radius area around the wellhead which will be considered a nitrogen sensitive area. A proposed playing field may cover a small part of the area, which is allowed.

Beaudry said that the wastewater treatment system will handle roughly 4,000 gallons per day, considerably less than the 10,000 gallons per day maximum that is regulated under local rather than state control.

Testing will be done this spring in accordance with the Board of Health regulations to see if the wastewater treatment system can be placed near the building. Although the system could be located much further back on the property, Beaudry wants to put two waste water disposal systems close to either end of the building. Each will handle roughly 2,000 gallons per day. The two smaller areas rather than one large area will allow the design to stay outside the setback limits of nearby wetlands.

Also, having the wastewater treatment system near the building will make it more accessible and easier to maintain, Beaudry noted. The systems would be under the parking area and may use the venting system of the building.

Storm water management will be handled by four small retention basins, two near the building and two on the far side of the parking area.


There was a question about firewalls from the audience. Valdez said there will be fire walls with a one-hour rating on all the exterior walls and between units. “With the acoustic separation between units, there is closer to two-hour protection in the walls and ceilings.” In addition, there will be water resources for fire fighting. A 20,000- to 25,000-gallon tank would feed a fire pump for the sprinkler system in the building. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito