Editorial: News pleasant for gateway in Northampton

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz points to a diagram showing improvements planned for Pleasant Street. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 1/24/2017 6:40:45 PM

Northampton received welcome news this month with another major financial commitment from the state advancing one of two affordable housing projects on Pleasant Street and helping to revitalize that southern gateway to the city.

The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development awarded the Lumberyard Apartments project $1.79 million in state and federal low-income housing tax credits and $3.3 million in rental housing subsidies. That allows the Valley Community Development Corp. to move ahead with its plan to build 55 units of affordable housing on the site of the former Northampton Lumber at 256 Pleasant St. The city and Smith College also are part of the partnership working with the Valley CDC.

“Northampton has displayed a remarkable level of collaboration and partnership to craft its Pleasant Street corridor master plan, and we are pleased to partner with the city to help deliver on that plan’s promise,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said in a statement announcing the latest state money.

The state in November approved a $2.5 million MassWorks grant for improved infrastructure. About $1 million will be used to relocate a storm drain beneath the buildings formerly occupied by Northampton Lumber, which closed in 2013. Those buildings will be demolished.

The rest of that grant will be used for bike lanes, on-street parking, sidewalks, trees, benches, curb extensions and other improvements on Pleasant Street, according to Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz.

“Our application called for strategic infrastructure investments along lower Pleasant Street to transform it from a state highway into more of a city street and key downtown gateway,” Narkewicz said.

Smith College kicked in $100,000 from its affordable housing fund, and the Valley CDC is seeking $2.8 million in private loans for the $20 million project. Construction of the four-story, 69,785-square-foot building is expected to begin in September, with one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments ready to rent by January 2019. The new building also will include 5,300 square feet of retail space.

The project approved two years ago will include 11 units for extremely low-income people – those earning $22,500 a year or less – including some who have been or at risk of becoming homeless.

“The Lumberyard Apartments will help deliver on Northampton’s sustainable growth plans … deliver new housing to working families, and advance broader community development in Northampton’s downtown,” said Chrystal Kornegay, the state undersecretary of housing and community development.

Construction of the other affordable housing project already is underway at the site of what was Northampton Lodging, originally a dormitory for the former Northampton Commercial College, and most recently a single-room-occupancy building.

HAPHousing, of Springfield, the largest nonprofit developer of affordable housing in western Massachusetts, is managing that project called Live 155, which will be its address on Pleasant Street.

That new five-story, 65,000-square-foot building will house studio and one-bedroom apartments, with 48 deemed affordable and 24 rented at market rate. The state Department of Housing and Community Development awarded affordable housing money to that project, which also will include 3,500 square feet of rental space.

And Northampton has contributed $600,000 in Community Preservation Act money and $350,000 in Community Development Block Grants to subsidize the two housing projects. They are the cornerstone of the city’s effort to support a revitalized business district on Pleasant Street and make it more attractive to visitors entering Northampton from the south, including Interstate 91, or emerging from the nearby platform for Amtrak’s high-speed passenger rail service.

The addition of 127 housing units — most for low-income people — and more space for businesses will help put a new shine on Pleasant Street, while serving as a model for successful public-private partnerships.




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