Vision for future of Gafney Home moving ahead

ROCHESTER – The plan to convert the historic Gafney home into living space for older residents with limited funds is taking shape.

The board of directors of the 20-bed assisted living facility transferred the property to the Strafford County’s Community Action Partnership last year. The scope and design of the project is currently underway as CAP has selected the Portsmouth architecture and design firm JSA Inc. to oversee the restoration and renovation, according to representatives from CAP and JSA.

“We are committed to delivering the home restoration design services to the community in a manner that would be approved by Judge Gafney,” said JSA Director Sandra Hodge, IIDA, director of interior design for the company. “This magnificent mansion has been a cornerstone in Rochester and is valued in both senior and historic architecture. We are proud to bring our unique and experienced skills to this project.”

The striking Victorian mansion at 90 Wakefield Street was built in 1894 as the residence of Judge Charles B. Gafney.

Gafney later donated the house to charity for use by elderly residents in need, and paved the way for the Gafney Home to be founded in 1904. The 1.5-acre property includes a carriage house and an annex to the 1950s was built.

The Gafney Home offered assisted living in downtown Rochester for the next 115 years until the home’s volunteer panel closed the facility on May 1, 2019. At that point, the board said it had to make the difficult decision because of the rising costs of healthcare, competition from new, larger facilities, and the gradual decline in the domestic population.

Carl Potvin, a local attorney and president of the Gafney Home Board, said they decided to transfer the $ 1.1 million property to the GAP because they believed the GAP was Gafney’s legacy Home would best continue and at the same time preserve the historical structure.

The total number of residential units has not yet been determined due to several pending technical steps and city permits. The CAP’s preliminary plan foresees between 17 and 21 units.

“The intent of the units is to help residents of the greater Rochester area stay in their community but move to an affordable place that will ultimately free up their units – whether they are at home or in apartments – to other people.” said CAP Executive Director Betsey Andrews Parker.

Construction is tentatively scheduled for spring 2021, but a few steps need to be taken first.

JSA and CAP are at least a few months away from finalizing project plans, said Eric Borrin, CAP’s Housing Development Manager.

Borrin estimated that the proposed design and total projected cost will be completed shortly before the grant and funding applications for the project are submitted in September. These applications include one for the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority’s competitive, low-income tax credit program.

“We’re excited about this project, but like many other things, it takes time and often depends on the funding sources we can reach with it,” said Andrews Parker, noting that the CAP has additional funding sources in addition to grants and tax credits becomes the program.

While there is still much to be completed with the project, Borrin said it was set in stone that the facades of the buildings, as well as a number of key rooms and details, remain unchanged.

Spaces like the entrance and grand staircase, living room, and Judge Gafney’s office are among those that aren’t touched, Borrin said. He said there were plans to use the judge’s living room and office for common areas open to residents of the house.

Borrin also said that all work will be contained within the existing footprint and that no new structures will be built on the property except for accessible ramps that will be installed at the rear of the property.

“I want to emphasize that the exterior remains the same,” said Borrin. “We have some necessary upgrades that need to be done, including an elevator, but these will be hidden from the street.”

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