Seeking to address housing crunch, Dartmouth College buys West Wheelock properties

During a site visit to West Wheelock Street in Hanover, N.H. on Monday, June 10, 2024, members of the public, Hanover town officials, Dartmouth College officials and others view a property where the college has proposed a multi-family residential building. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

During a site visit to West Wheelock Street in Hanover, N.H. on Monday, June 10, 2024, members of the public, Hanover town officials, Dartmouth College officials and others view a property where the college has proposed a multi-family residential building. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck

Brian Edwards, center left, chair of the planning board, listens while Darrell Hotchkiss, of Hanover, N.H. asks Rob Houseman, Hanover’s Planning, Zoning & Codes Director and Zoning Administrator, a question during a site visit on West Wheelock Street on Monday, June 10, 2024. Dartmouth College has proposed to construct a new multi-family residential building on the site. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Brian Edwards, center left, chair of the planning board, listens while Darrell Hotchkiss, of Hanover, N.H. asks Rob Houseman, Hanover’s Planning, Zoning & Codes Director and Zoning Administrator, a question during a site visit on West Wheelock Street on Monday, June 10, 2024. Dartmouth College has proposed to construct a new multi-family residential building on the site. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

From right, Hanover Planning Board member Paul Simon, Meredith Christensen, Dartmouth College’s Senior Director of Project Development and Michele Quinn Littefield, of the architectural firm Cube 3, look over the site of a proposed multi-family residential building Dartmouth College wants to construct on West Wheelock Street on Monday, June 10, 2024 in Hanover. N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

From right, Hanover Planning Board member Paul Simon, Meredith Christensen, Dartmouth College’s Senior Director of Project Development and Michele Quinn Littefield, of the architectural firm Cube 3, look over the site of a proposed multi-family residential building Dartmouth College wants to construct on West Wheelock Street on Monday, June 10, 2024 in Hanover. N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

Petra Sergent, of Hanover, N.H., consults a handout during a site visit at West Wheelock Street in Hanover on Monday, June 11, 2024. Dartmouth College has proposed to construct a new multi-family residential building. Sergent is a Hanover Cemetery Trustee, behind her is the Dartmouth Cemetery. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Petra Sergent, of Hanover, N.H., consults a handout during a site visit at West Wheelock Street in Hanover on Monday, June 11, 2024. Dartmouth College has proposed to construct a new multi-family residential building. Sergent is a Hanover Cemetery Trustee, behind her is the Dartmouth Cemetery. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 06-24-2024 7:02 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College acquired four properties last week on West Wheelock Street, an area where college officials aim to substantially increase housing for undergraduate students. 

On Friday, Dartmouth College finalized the purchase of the residential properties for a sum of $23.5 million from Jolin Salazar-Kish, a Hanover-based real estate developer and college alumna. 

The purchase makes the college the owner of nearly all the land on the north side of West Wheelock Street from School Street to the Connecticut River — with the exception of a couple of privately-owned parcels. 

“We saw this as a strategic opportunity,” Josh Keniston, senior vice president of capital planning and campus operations, said in a Monday interview. “These lots, particularly on the north side of the street, have an excellent proximity to the core part of our campus," including the student center, dining hall and the campus green. 

The college’s new acquisitions include 41 and 43 West Wheelock St., two adjoining rental housing properties near West Wheelock’s intersection with Thayer Avenue, and 14 and 16 West Wheelock St., two adjoining parcels with multi-family apartments near the intersection of West Wheelock Street and School Street. 

All four properties are currently vacant, Keniston said in an interview. College officials have not decided yet whether the existing buildings will be used as housing during the development of a long-term plan. 

“Our overall goal is to redevelop these properties,” Keniston said. “But we’ll be taking a closer look at them to see if it makes sense to rent them and if so, how we would do that.” 

President Sian Leah Beilock, in her inaugural address to the college last September, announced a plan to add 1,000 new beds for students, faculty and staff within 10 years. 

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The first of these, 25-27 West Wheelock St., is under review by the Hanover Planning Board. The proposed project would provide apartment-style units for approximately 285 undergraduate students near the intersection with Engineering Drive. 

The town Planning Board will review the project’s site plan at a public hearing on Tuesday, July 2 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. 

Pending the board’s approval, the college hopes to start construction of 25-27 West Wheelock St. by the early fall, with completion planned for 2026, Keniston said. 

Dartmouth plans to engage with property owners on the street, as well as town planning officials, about the future development of the new properties — similar to the discussions and meetings the college held in developing the 25-27 West Wheelock project, Keniston said.

The college wants to ensure that its development in the West Wheelock corridor “is done thoughtfully” to benefit the overall community, Keniston said. In addition to providing quality housing, the college seeks to improve public infrastructure, such as the creation of bicycle lanes. 

Redeveloping these West Wheelock properties would be a “win-win” for both the college and the town, said Planning and Zoning Director Rob Houseman. 

Most of the multi-family homes on the street are aging and outdated, Houseman said in an interview.

A “vigorous investment in new housing,” plus infrastructure improvements needed to support these projects, including lighting upgrades and safe, transportation routes, would be a positive change to the western corridor into downtown Hanover, Houseman said. 

The town is currently exploring a variety of potential funding tools to pay for infrastructure improvements in the West Wheelock corridor, Houseman said.

At a Selectboard meeting in March, town staff proposed tax increment financing, or TIF — a funding method in which a municipality pays for infrastructure improvements to a designated area by capturing the tax revenues generated from increases in the area’s property value.

But TIF is just one option being explored, Houseman said. 

“We are going to look at all the (funding) tools in our toolbox and we will figure out what the (infrastructure improvements) should look like, what the base cost would be, how to fund it and how that would affect neighbors on the street and the overall community,” Houseman said. 

As part of last week’s multi-property transaction, Dartmouth sold Foley House, at 20 West St. — a 10-bed residence that is one of three living learning communities in the undergraduate house system — to Kish. Dartmouth will lease the residence from Kish for six years, and there won’t be any change to the living learning program, Keniston said. A new location for Foley House will be identified when the lease expires.

Kish, who paid $1.5 million for Foley House, said the purchase was negotiated with Dartmouth in a “1031 exchange,” a federal tax rule that allows real estate investors to swap one investment property for another, to defer capital gains taxes. 

In an interview, Kish said she is allowed a six-month window to offset the $23.5 million gained from Friday’s property sale in spending on new property purchases. Kish said that the properties she is looking to purchase will exceed the $22 million in spending required to avoid being taxed, though she cannot comment on property negotiations until they are finalized. 

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.