Sunderland senior housing project moving ahead, with help from $6.9M in state funding

  • A new building will be constructed to the rear and left of the existing house at 120 North Main St. for the affordable senior housing project in Sunderland. The existing building will also be renovated for additional apartments. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • An affordable senior housing project in Sunderland will see a new building be constructed to the rear and left of the existing house at 120 North Main St., pictured. The existing building will also be renovated to accommodate additional apartments. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 10, 2020

SUNDERLAND — About $6.9 million has been awarded to Rural Development Inc. (RDI) to finance the affordable senior housing project on North Main Street.

Through this round of awards, the state provided more than $105.7 million in direct funding and $53 million in state and federal tax credits for affordable housing across the state, according to the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. Sunderland’s project, which was approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2019, was one of 28 projects in 19 communities across the state to receive funding.

“The project overall is about $13 million, and there are (funding) sources coming from all over the place,” said Gina Govoni, executive director of the Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which oversees RDI. “What the award gives us access to is the tax credit investment, and that’s a major piece of this.”

Other funding sources for the project include $100,000 from the Community Preservation Act.

The project calls for the development of a new building to the rear and left of the existing house at 120 North Main St. The existing building, then, will be renovated to accommodate additional apartments. In total, 33 apartments will be available to seniors ages 62 and older who meet the income eligibility requirements.

Govoni said RDI plans to include on-site services for seniors, including a library room that will be fitted with plumbing and internet for residents to do telemed appointments. Additionally, RDI has budgeted for an on-site residence service coordinator through LifePath.

“We’re excited to be able to partner with LifePath in this new facility,” she said.

Govoni said RDI is in the process of preparing for the financial closing, and selecting a general contractor.

“In addition, we’ve sent requests for investors, both state and federal tax credit investors,” she said.

Govoni, who came onto the project about 2½ years after it was proposed to the town in 2016, said she credits Austin Design Inc. and Laura Baker of Pioneer Valley Community Development Corporation (CDC) — which is consulting on the project — for “visualizing something that fits so well with the community.”

“It’s really a special development,” she said.

Recalling the early stages of the project, Baker, real estate project manager at Pioneer Valley CDC, said RDI responded to requests for proposals sought by the town about two years after the town bought the property in 2014.

“That kind of kicked off more intensive planning,” said Baker, noting that the process since then has involved site feasibility analyses, permitting, designing and fundraising.

Both Baker and Govoni said they are unsure as to whether the COVID-19 pandemic will change the tentative schedule for construction, which is currently slated to start in spring 2021.

“It’s very possible, because the construction world has been turned on its head a bit,” Baker said. “But that’s still our goal, to have everything queued up to be able to capture as much of that construction season as possible.”

Govoni said she plans to seek input in the coming months from the 120 North Main Street Advisory Committee on the naming of the facility, and that she hopes to begin marketing to seniors by summer 2022 with the intention of moving people in by the end of the same calendar year. Construction is expected to last about 18 months.

“If everything goes as planned, which is a big ‘if’ with COVID … we will be closing on this project by the end of March,” Govoni said. “We will put a shovel in the ground at some point in April and really begin the construction in earnest.”