Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration has awarded $57 million to 19 projects in Massachusetts to create or preserve more than 1,300 apartments for low-income tenants.
The largest award in this round of housing project subsidies, $10.2 million, will help finance the $45 million renovation of Chestnut Park in downtown Springfield. Built in the 1970s, there are four buildings including a 34-story high-rise with nearly 500 apartments.
Massachusetts Housing and Economic Development Sec. Jay Ash, who came to Springfield, to make the funding announcement, said quality affordable housing is key to the growth of the state’s economy.
" The economy is booming and there are good things happening, but we know there are people who are looking for assistance to plan for their own personal prosperity and we know that quality affordable housing is the basis for everything else that happens in someone's life," said Ash.
Three other projects in western Massachusetts were included in the latest round of affordable housing funding: Bentley Apartments, a project in Great Barrington to build new apartments for 45 families, the expansion of Sargent House in Northampton to 31 apartments for formerly homeless people, and the second phase of a comprehensive redevelopment of the Lyman Terrace public housing development in Holyoke.
" A healthy community has a healthy balance of affordable and market-rate housing," said Ash.
When Chestnut Towers opened it was considered among the best housing options in Springfield. In recent decades however the complex has been plagued by vandalism and crime. New York City-based Related Companies took over management of the property last year and said it planned to make improvements.
Ash said Springfield officials led by Mayor Domenic Sarno lobbied hard for state funding for the project that he said would ensure the buildings best days are ahead.
" We are convinced that with this investment we are going to help the city and the property owner to make this a quality housing project that everybody in Springfield can be proud of," said Ash.
The large scale renovation project announced by Related includes upgrades to each apartment with new kitchens and bathrooms, new windows, new heating and air conditioning units. New common areas will include a fitness room, laundry room, computer room, and children’s room. The 10 elevators will be modernized, the plumbing upgraded, and the building façade changed.
Plans also call for a workforce development training center as part of the renovated apartment complex.
Related Vice Chairman Jeff Brodsky said no tenants will be displaced during construction but they will be inconvenienced at times such as when elevators are taken out of service.
" And we apologize for that, but that is what is necessary to do the job right," said Brodsky.
The project is expected to take 2 years to complete.
Mayor Sarno, who has urged development of more market rate rental housing in downtown Springfield, said it was important to “stabilize Chestnut Towers.”
" I think the key here is good-managed clean and healthy affordable housing with the workforce development component," Sarno said.
The city is planning to spend millions of dollars to renovate Pynchon Plaza, a public space next to the apartment complex.