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Latest ARPA funding awarded in Springfield will help housing development and rehab

Paul Tuthill
The Gentile Apartments in Springfield's South End neighborhood and the Riverview Apartments are slated to have the buildings' elevators upgraded. The projects will be paid for with $1.8 million the Springfield Housing Authority is receiving from the city of Springfield's allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Springfield Housing Authority gets $1.8 million for elevator upgrades

The second-largest public housing authority in Massachusetts is getting federal COVID recovery money to help reduce a backlog of repair projects.

The Springfield Housing Authority has been awarded $1.8 million from the city of Springfield’s allotment of funds received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to modernize the elevators at the Riverview and Gentile apartment buildings.

Earlier this month, the elevator at the seven-story Gentile apartments broke down and was out of service for a week until parts arrived. Residents had to use the stairs or the service elevator, said tenant representative Gail Turner.

“Luckily, my apartment is on the first floor,” Turner said.

She said the building also needs new windows and the security camera at the front door doesn’t work.

“It’s a work in progress,” she said about efforts to keep up with the repairs needed to an aging building.

The ARPA award from the city will let the housing authority check a couple of items off a long list of capital improvement projects with a total cost of more than $30 million, said SHA Executive Director Denise Jordan.

“We have a lot of capital needs, we don’t get a lot of capital support, so we’re grateful to the city to start us off,” Jordan said.

She said the authority is going to lobby the Massachusetts legislature for a share of the billions in unspent ARPA money allocated to the state.

“We are going to the State House next week and we’re going to start going after the funding,” Jordan said.

The money for the housing authority was included in the fifth round of ARPA funding awards announced by Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno – more than $11 million to an array of small businesses, nonprofits and agencies.

“We’re not only trying to help people stabilize, we want them to thrive right now,” Sarno said.

With this latest announcement, the city has now assigned more than $47 million from the $123 million it received from the ARPA program.

“We have not sat on this money,” Sarno said.

One of the seven nonprofits receiving funds in this latest round of awards is Home City Development. $1 million will be put toward an estimated $16 million project to build 40 new homes on a vacant lot where a factory once stood in the city’s South End neighborhood, said Home City Executive Director Thomas Kegelman.

“Development in the inner city is often complicated with lots of challenges, everything from soils to storm water management to traffic issues,” he said. “If not for these public subsidies, we would not be able to build anything.”

He said just 10 new houses have been constructed in the South End in the last 20 years.

Six small businesses received money in this fifth round of ARPA announcements. According to the mayor’s office more than 80 percent of the 39 small businesses that have so far received the federal money from the city are minority owned.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.