N. Amherst project gets state money

  • A rendering of the North Square at the Mill District project. The $40 million proposed project is to be located in North Amherst on Cowls Road. Submitted Illustration

For The Recorder
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

HOLYOKE — A $47.5 million mixed-use project that will provide significant affordable housing in North Amherst, as well as space for between eight and 10 new businesses, will move forward next spring.

The 130-apartment North Square at the Mill District is one of six projects that Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced will be funded by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

Speaking at City Council chambers at Holyoke City Hall Tuesday morning, Polito said more than $20 million in subsidies and $15 million in low-income tax credits will pave the way for the creation of 511 new rental units across the state, 348 of which will be affordable.

Dara Kovel, president of Beacon Communities Development of Boston, said she is ecstatic that the project is funded, after missing out in August’s round, when $72 million was awarded.

“We couldn’t be more overjoyed,” Kovel said.

She praised town officials for their supportive role, noting the smooth, yet rigorous process to receive a comprehensive permit from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, under the state’s chapter 40B affordable housing law earlier this year.

The project is to be built on 5.3 acres of vacant industrial land on Cowls Road owned by W.D. Cowls.

Plans call for 26 of the 130 apartments to be set aside for low- and moderate-income families, that is, people earning up to 50 percent of the area median income. There will also be 22,000 square feet of commercial space that will align with other development in the Mill District that has included the Trolley Barn, a three-story mixed-use building with Bread & Butter restaurant and The Lift salon on the ground level, and satellite Atkins Farms Country Market.

Chrystal Kornegay, undersecretary for the Department of Housing and Community Development, called the funding a “surprise round” and observed that state officials wanted to ensure that projects with high readiness and high leverage from their host communities got the financial backing they need.

Other projects funded are in Cambridge, Eastham, Lawrence and Yarmouth.

W.D. Cowls President Cinda Jones, who was present with her brother, Evan Jones, president of Cowls Building Supply, thanked Beacon for its investment and also applauded Mollye Lockwood, formerly vice president of Real Estate and Community Development for W.D. Cowls, for bringing the partnership with Beacon.

Jones said she sees the Beacon project as the latest in the regeneration of the Cowls home farm.

“Every generation of the family since 1741 has rebuilt this site to satisfy their generation’s community needs,” Jones said.

The vision includes additional projects on Cowls Road called the Mill District Depot and the potential for development of 12 acres on Sunderland Road that she is calling Mill District West.