Valley CDC eyes affordable housing behind Northampton City Hall

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 07-05-2023 5:44 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Valley Community Development Corporation revealed preliminary plans Monday for a new affordable housing development that would provide 30 new studio apartments for low-income residents in a six-story building on Crafts Avenue behind City Hall.

Details of the planned development at 27 Crafts Ave. were presented during a Housing Partnership meeting by Valley CDC real estate development director Laura Baker. The city donated the property to Valley CDC, with a request to develop it into affordable housing, in 2022. The existing site includes a stairway leading to a parking lot between City Hall and the city’s Puchalski Municipal Building. A second parking lot for city employees is located at the bottom of the stairs along Crafts.

“Mostly, what we’re excited about is just how walkable this location is from everything to downtown,” Baker said. “It’s walkable to multiple bus locations in town, also extremely close to the bike trail as well as less than half a mile from the railway station.”

Preliminary plans show the building to be six stories high with the average size for the apartments at 327 square feet. The building would also feature bicycle storage rooms, a laundry room and offices for property management, resident services, and maintenance staff on-site.

Of the 30 apartments, 20 would be reserved for individuals making less than $18,000 with a preference for those facing homelessness. The other 10 apartments would be for individuals making less than $39,000 a year, according to the Valley CDC.

Funding for the development will come partially from a $970,000 Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant the city received for the design of the project. The current estimated cost for the project is currently $16.6 million, based on construction costs. 

Baker said Valley CDC would present its plans to other interested stakeholders, such as neighboring businesses, the Northampton Historical Commission and the city government, as well as seeking additional financing from the state to fund the development.

“We’ve been doing kind of door-to-door visits to the businesses along Crafts Avenue over the last couple of weeks, and we have a planned presentation with the Downtown Northampton Association,” Baker said. “The idea is to build something that is compatible and does not create any kind of negative adverse impact on the surrounding historic district.”

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If all goes according to plan, construction on the project would begin sometime around 2026, Baker said.

JoElla Tarbutton-Springfield, who serves on the board of the Northampton Housing Authority and who attended Monday’s meeting, questioned whether the property might attract crowding of the city’s homeless population, due to its proximity to Pulaski Park and by residents bringing homeless friends to the property to stay with them.

“In my opinion, it’s a wonderful idea. I think your heart is really there,” Tarbutton-Springfield said. “But I wonder if we’re going to shift people there to congregate, and that’s a concern.”

Baker responded by saying that Valley CDC was experienced in managing properties consisting of formerly unhoused residents, and that the city’s planned Resiliency Hub could also allay concerns regarding congregation.

“For me, that’s a management issue in terms of setting house rules for people,” Baker said. “I think one of the advantages of having a resident services coordinator on site is that person is a little bit of a social worker type, to redirect folks who may not be tenants but who may also need services.”

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.

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