On August 28, 2011, the same apartment was completely submerged with the floodwaters caused by Tropical Storm Irene, reaching a foot and a half above its ceiling into what is now the Village Dog Grooming Studio. The 800-square-foot space was wiped out, and all that was left were three feet of mud, and the combined smell of sewage, oil, and petroleum.
Gareiss has owned 9 South Main Street, one of his four rental properties in town, since 2001, and while the subfloor of the apartment had flooded once a year, never before had the adjacent river submerged the apartment. With a newfound knowledge of the river’s capabilities, Gareiss decided to take a different approach than simply replacing the sheetrock; he decided the apartment should be as flood-protected as possible.
“My goal was to be the first person open the next time a flood hits,” said Gareiss. “I want to be the first guy opening the door for a new tenant, but I also wanted it to have as few moving parts as possible, and know I would only need very little capital to recover from the next flood.”
To solidify his most vulnerable position, Gareiss sought the help of architect Joseph Cincotta at Linesync Architecture, whom Gareiss says came up with 99% of the design. Along with an engineering study, as well as his and builder Roland Clingenpeel’s two cents at every turn, the flood-proofing began.
The apartment’s walls are not sheetrock, but screwed-in galvanized steel panels, covering closed cell, waterproof insulation. The interior partition walls were constructed with concrete-filled blocks, while electrical wiring was completed with heavy duty insulated wiring often used outdoors for lampposts.
Clingenpeel designed modulated window frames as well, which can easily be unscrewed in four places and brought to higher ground along with the windows themselves. The floors are concrete as well with an acid stain finish, while the bathroom is completely tiled except for a single glass wall for the shower.
The overall idea was to construct an apartment that could simply be dismantled, sprayed off with a power washer, and put back together. Drains have also been installed in each of the apartment’s four rooms in order to send floodwater back into the river, complete with an OK from the Agency of Natural Resources.
Should the apartment flood, Gareiss said the only replacements necessary would be the cabinets and appliances.
While Gareiss was not specific about the total cost of the project, he made it clear that it came at a high cost, and included insurance money, as well as loans from the Small Business Administration. But this is also his most expensive two-bedroom apartment at $1,050 monthly, a price he says is higher than normal, but with extra care and amenities put into it, he believes his new tenants, moving in this weekend, are getting every penny’s worth.
Just over two and a half years ago Gareiss was not sure if anyone would be allowed to live in the apartment again, but according to Clingenpeel, patience has paid off. “I’ve done many kinds of projects. This is my first flood-proofing job and we did this job experimentally as we went along,” said Clingenpeel. “One thing that separates this from other jobs is Todd gave me the time to get it done right. Normally you’re on a schedule that has to be pushed but we took our time, and the finished product is beautiful and comfortable and I’d like to live here. It’s a place we would all enjoy living in.”
Gareiss sees this flagship apartment (as he calls it) as a great addition to the town, as well as a smart personal investment. “It’s a worthy investment because as the town begins to pick up speed, other people may begin building higher end apartments in town, and I think it’s a smart competitive move as well.”