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State provides funding for Outing Park housing projects

July 10, 2014 | G. Michael Dobbs

Listening to Mayor Domenic Sarno speak at the announcement in Springfield of additional state housing funds were Gov. Deval Patrick, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Gregory Bialecki and state Sen. James Welch.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Deval Patrick formally announced the state would provide $83 million to 24 housing projects around the state to create 1,328 units of housing.

Patrick made the announcement on July 7 in Springfield at Outing Park, formerly known as the Hollywood section of the South End.

Outing Park will benefit from the new round of housing funds as will Chapin School Veterans Housing in Chicopee, at which the former Chapin School building is being renovated into housing for veterans, and HAP Housing’s efforts to improve its two historic buildings that have 60 units of housing at Kenwyn Apartment and Quadrangle Court.

Patrick said such efforts are “rebuilding lives and rebuilding neighborhoods.” He added that $86 million is a “considerable investment.”

He explained affordable housing is part of an economic strategy.

“We have a lot of housing stock that is in need of updating, modernization,” Patrick said.

Additional projects in Western Massachusetts include developments in Northampton, Greenfield and Pittsfield.

Gordon Pulsifer, president of First Resource Development Company, said the funding his company is receiving would allow it to complete its restoration of the Outing Park site. The $25 million it received will be used to rehabilitate 118 apartments.

Outing Park is the fourth housing project undertaken by First Resource in the city and Pulsifer said the area has a “very rich history.” Initially it was the last piece of undeveloped property in the city, he explained, and it became known as an area for picnics and had several hiking trails through it. It was developed into an apartment and by the 1940s there were 44 buildings there with “high end housing.” The neighborhood was dubbed “Hollywood” because of a popular market there with that name.

By the time in 2008 when First Resource became involved, many of the buildings had fallen into disrepair and the area was known for both poverty and crime. Many of the buildings have been removed – there are now 23 – and Pulsifer’s company has renovated the existing apartments and added security systems, among other improvements.

“Our goal is to restore [Outing Park] to the beauty of what it once was,” he said.

He added the new units would be considered “affordable” housing and potential tenants would be subject to wage guidelines, however, he stressed this is a working class neighborhood.

Speaking on the development of market rate housing, Patrick said, “The market takes care of the market rate on the whole. One of the big issues there has been the speed and ease of permitting and we’ve been working with cities and town[s] to insure that it’s as simple as possible … this is not about a view that government should try to solve every problem and everybody’s circumstances but where government can help people help themselves.”

Under Secretary Aaron Goldstein of the Department of Housing and Community Development, said the Commonwealth has been working on developing more mixed income housing by combining some market rate with affordable in the same development. He noted there would be some market rate housing at Outing Park. He added there is a tax credit program for the development of market rate housing in the Gateway Cities.

Also while in Springfield, Patrick signed into law legislation that would ensure public safety, protect the environment, reduce costs and create jobs by reducing potentially hazardous gas leaks in Massachusetts.

He also announced a $100,000 grant from the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to Valley Venture Mentors (VVM), to support the construction and development of VVM’s accelerator, aimed at supporting entrepreneurs in the area.

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