On a former brownfield site, an environmentally friendly Newburyport rental community grows

New Developments Renting
Rents start at $2,200 per month for a 600-square foot one-bedroom, including four kilowatts of solar power and hot water. Eric Roth Photography

Community-focused, environmentally friendly living.

That’s how Hall and Moskow Property Management and Development describes its ambitious net-positive Hillside Center for Sustainable Living in Newburyport, which recently completed phase one.

Purposefully designed to address the three largest drivers of CO2 emissions — housing, food, and transportation — the 4.5-acre site will eventually include 48 market-rate one-, two-, and three-bedroom rental units and, unusually, an affordable 10-room communal shared-kitchen residence.

Another unusual amenity is its onsite community-supported agriculture.

“A huge part of the site is edible landscape,” developing partner Keith Moskow said. “We have a large commercial greenhouse that is also solar-run and an on-site farm manager. Residents can participate in a work-exchange plan for the CSA, too.”

“We will collaborate with other farms because we can’t grow enough onsite,” co-developer David D. Hall added, “but the edible landscape is a big component here.”

Given that the development is located on a former brownfield site, once a dump for coal ash and trucks and cars, a massive cleanup operation preceded the construction of the development, let alone any edible plantings.

“We pulled 110 semis worth of soil out of here. What’s left is clean,” Hall confirmed.

The buildings are close together, New Urbanism style, and roof decks and front porches encourage indoor-outdoor living.  The construction utilizes “superinsulated, multi-story concrete wall panels that are cast on site,” Hall said.

“It’s a very efficient way to build a high-performance home,” he added. “It creates a very high energy-conserving envelope. Air sealant is the most important element of a high-performance building.”

. —Eric Roth Photography

The facility is solar-run, including electric car-charging stations, and there are shared electric cars for residents’ use. Permeable roadways allow for natural drainage, and rainwater is captured and used for irrigation and even flushing toilets.

The interiors appear similar to any modern apartment: a calm mix of beige and white with a simple open layout.

“They are modest and very, very comfortable,” Moskow said. “They are recording studio quiet. Also, the temperature is super even, so there are no hot spots and no cold spots.”

The interiors have significantly less off-gassing of toxic elements.

“We used building materials that have elements friendly to humans, friendly to any creatures. We used cork flooring and wood counters, not composites,” said Hall. “Each unit has an air sensor measuring CO2, VOCs, humidity, and temperature. The [volatile organic compound] levels are phenomenal.”

Topping it all is the development’s location within walking distance of Newburyport’s charming downtown and the commuter rail station.

. —Moskow and Hall

Hall and Moskow emphasized the considerable help they had from Newburyport officials and the State Pathways to Zero Net Energy Program. Long term, they want to take their green development recipe nationwide: “We are looking for other sites,” Moskow confirmed.

Hillside’s completion is expected within two years. Already, phase one’s 10 homes are occupied, and Hall and Moskow expect the next eight units, available by mid-summer, to be snapped up. Rents start at $2,200 per month for a 600-square foot one-bedroom, including four kilowatts of solar power and hot water.

“This is still a construction site and they want to be here,” Moskow said. “People want to do well by the planet. It’s a self-selecting community who are interested and want to participate.”

Contact information: Hillside Center for Sustainable Living is located at 17 Cottage Court in Newburyport. Hall and Moscow’s offices are at 2 Federal St. in Newburyport. Call 978-465-7047 or send an e-mail to [email protected]

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