Holyoke affordable housing project gets $6.5M boost

  • Matt Mainville, the executive director of the Holyoke housing authority, talks about the plans for the MassWorks grant that will help build 88 units of affordable housing in Holyoke. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Matt Mainville, center, executive director of the Holyoke Housing Authority, shows Gov. Charlie Baker, left, and Mayor Alex Morse the plans for the MassWorks grant received that will help build 90 units of affordable housing in Holyoke, Tuesday, at El Mercado. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Governor Charlie Baker speaks about the MassWorks grant that will help build 88 units of affordable housing in Holyoke. Left, Matt Mainville, the executive director of the Holyoke housing authority, and State Rep, Aaron Vega. On the right Mayor Alex Morse. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Gov. Charlie Baker speaks about the MassWorks grant that will help build 90 units of affordable housing in Holyoke. Looking on are Matt Mainville, left, executive director of the Holyoke Housing Authority, and state Rep. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Governor Charlie Baker speaks about the MassWorks grant that will help build 88 units of affordable housing in Holyoke. Left, Matt Mainville, the executive director of the Holyoke housing authority, and State Representative, Aaron Vega. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The plans for the MassWorks grant Holyoke received that will help build 88 units of affordable housing. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Clemente street is where part of the MassWorks grant will be used to build 88 units of affordable housing in Holyoke. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Matt Mainville, the executive director of the Holyoke housing authority, talks about the plans for the MassWorks grant that will help build 88 units of affordable housing in Holyoke. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/10/2019 11:33:24 PM

HOLYOKE — A 90-unit affordable housing project planned for South Holyoke received a $6.56 million state grant Tuesday for streetscape improvements that officials say are crucial to the development’s next steps.

During a morning announcement at El Mercado on Main Street, Gov. Charlie Baker joined Mayor Alex Morse and about 40 others to celebrate the MassWorks Infrastructure grant. Baker said the contribution was the largest of any of the $72 million awarded this year by the program.

The majority of the housing project is planned to be built on land surrounding Carlos Vega Park on Clemente Street, with some buildings currently planned for S. Bridge, S. East and Hamilton streets. Money from the grant will go toward a new traffic configuration, new curbing and sidewalks, landscaping, street lighting, stormwater bump-outs with trees, bike lanes, pedestrian connections, improved alleyways, and an 18,950-square-foot green space.

“It was important for us to get this grant because, without it, I don’t think we are able to afford the vertical construction,” said Matthew Mainville, executive director of the Holyoke Housing Authority said after the announcement. The housing authority will oversee and manage the development.

Standing at the podium, Morse cited data he said shows that over 90 percent of people who live in this particular South Holyoke neighborhood rent their homes. The new development’s plan is to have 66 rental units and 24 townhouse-style homeownership opportunities. Morse said additional chances to own a home could help people move up the socioeconomic ladder.

“That shouldn’t mean that you have to move out of the neighborhood you call home for generations to be able to buy a home in your neighborhood,” Morse said.

The city was granted 100 percent of what it requested on the grant’s first round, the mayor said. Baker said that his office was attracted to the project since it both supported housing and neighborhood redevelopment.

“We really want to make sure that all of the infrastructure piece, which is basically what we’re worrying about along with the streetscape, will get funded,” Baker said. “We’re very excited about this project, we look forward to seeing it move forward and be completed, and we think it’s a big statement for the city and a big statement for all of us.”

State Rep. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke, whose father is the namesake for Carlos Vega Park, said the project meant a lot to him as his father was committed to housing.

“He would be so happy to be here and would be so excited to see these housing projects come around,” Vega said.

Ward 1 City Councilor and co-chair of the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority Gladys Lebron-Martinez said she was one of the residents who moved out of that neighborhood as she looked to purchase a home. Lebron-Martinez envisions the grant will boost morale for people living in the area as they see progress being made on the project through street improvements.

“Now when they start seeing the sidewalks being done and repairs, they’ll start saying ‘This is really going to happen,’ and I’m thankful for that,” Lebron-Martinez said. The authority acquired much of the vacant land for the project.

According to the governor’s office, the new development utilizes state Urban Agenda funding and is expected to lead to $32 million in private investment. Along with $139,500 from the Holyoke Housing Authority toward landscape design and other cost estimates, the city is expected to leverage $9,429,500 worth of other approved projects in the area to be completed with the project.

Capital improvement projects by Holyoke Water Works in the area, as well as a $4 million Complete Streets project on Cabot Street, are expected to also support the affordable housing project, the statement said.

Mainville said he expects the housing construction will be completed in a “multi-phase approach,” taking a few years to complete all of the construction, adding that plans for the buildings could change in the interim. Mainville said he anticipates the project will go out to bid in 2020 and that he is not sure how much the units will cost. He also said the townhouse-style flats could serve as multi-generational housing for those who take care of elderly family members.

In 2015, Lyman Terrace received a $4 million MassWorks grant supporting that housing project’s redevelopment, and so did Front and Heritage streets for $1.6 million toward safety improvements in 2018.

“This is really, truly a community that hasn’t seen investment and there have been multiple planning processes that have started and haven’t really gone anywhere,” Mainville said. “So for us to be able to see the governor come in today and put a number and a check to this planning process, it’s going to ring very true to the people who have gone through the process.”

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.

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