I was welcomed to Timberwood Commons by Heather Doran, who exudes warm enthusiasm from behind her desk in the leasing office. The numbers she shared describe the Upper Valley rental market better than words can.
The occupancy rate the day I stopped in: 96 percent.
Rental rates: starting at $1,790 per month for a 1-bedroom apartment and $2,200 for a two-bedroom. It goes up from there.
There are 252 units in Timberwood Commons. The vacancy sheet on Doran's desk was only a half-page long. "Some of these are already taken," she said.
How to explain numbers like that?
Timberwood Commons stands along Mount Support Road in Lebanon, which runs parallel to Route 120. The complex is just a half-mile from the intersection that takes you left into DHMC or right toward the Centerra office park.
"There's got to be close to 10,000 jobs at the top of that hill," said Dave Brooks, the director of planning for the city of Lebanon. All those workers need housing, and they'd prefer to live closer than farther away. Which explains why site work has begun on apartment and condo projects on the Centerra side of the action. There will be more to come.
"The rents are sky-high because there's so much demand and not so much supply," said Brooks, who foresees a day when the DHMC-Centerra hill is a "node" much like downtown Leb and West Leb.
Inside Timberwood Commons
Touring the Timberwood parking lot tells you something about the Upper Valley economy, too. It's a great place to play license plate bingo.
I parked next to cars from Florida, Texas and Washington, D.C. Around the lot I saw plates from Connecticut, New Jersey, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Arizona, Michigan, New York, California, Maine, Georgia, Indiana, South Dakota and Missouri. (Vermont and New Hampshire too. Those are gimmes.)
If that's where Timberwood tenants come from, what happens when they get there? Does a community take form? Doran said it does, fostered by big events and small amenities, like the coffee bar in the leasing office. Where do those people shop and socialize? How do they like life in their node? If Timberwood will have me back, I'll stop by one morning and have coffee with the neighbors.
High demand and high prices can be a challenge from a renter's point of view. If you're an Upper Valley renter, I'd love to hear about your experiences. Email me at email@example.com.