Affordable housing replaces overgrown, vacant lot

Affordable housing units in Pawtucket and Central Falls - part of the Branch Blackstone project by PCF Development - are officially welcoming their first tenants. 

 

 

PAWTUCKET – An overgrown lot on the Pawtucket/Central Falls line that served as an illegal dumping ground for more than a decade has officially been “flipped” thanks to the efforts of Pawtucket Central Falls (PCF) Development, which transformed the brownfields site into new affordable housing along the Blackstone River.

“We essentially rebuilt a neighborhood,” said PCF executive director Linda Weisinger on Monday, speaking at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the development.

The project includes a total of 46 rental homes for low and moderate-income individuals and families in Pawtucket and Central Falls. Construction began last June on the $11 million “Branch Blackstone” development, which is comprised of 29 newly constructed apartments at the corner of East and Branch streets in Pawtucket, in addition to 17 renovated units scattered across Pawtucket and Central Falls.

Weisinger said it was a “true vision-to-reality story” that began more than a decade ago when the first redevelopment site was acquired in 2007. At the start of the project, 11 lots had houses that had stood vacant since the 1970s. Extensive remediation of the 2.75-acre site along the Blackstone River was made possible by a $1 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. More than a foot of contaminated soil was removed from the brownfields site before construction could begin.

“This site had become the neighborhood dumping ground,” Weisinger said. “The transformation is incredible when we reflect on the progress that has been made.”

Branch Blackstone includes one, two, three and four-bedroom affordable housing units. The project was made possible primarily due to the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, as well as the following funders: City of Central Falls, City of Pawtucket, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Home Loan, Bank of Boston, Housing Ministries of New England, LISC Rhode Island, National Equity Fund, Pawtucket Credit Union, Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency, RIHousing and TD Bank.

Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien and Central Falls Mayor James Diossa thanked project stakeholders for their commitment to the two communities. Grebien said the project marks “another milestone in the transformation of our community and state,” while Diossa said projects like these give residents hope for the future.

Also speaking at the ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, Congressman David Cicilline said Branch Blackstone is an example of the type of work the state’s leaders need to do for housing, “…but at a much faster pace.”

“As a delegation, we need to support funding the necessary pieces for these types of developments,” Cicilline said. “Inside these units are families whose lives will be transformed by living here.”

Sen. Sandra Cano, who said she first became involved with PCF as a city councilwoman in Pawtucket, said she was excited to learn the Branch Blackstone development would be part of her Senate district.

“We need affordable, but also quality housing,” she noted. “We need more of these projects for our residents, and as elected officials need to do a better job of allocating funds for these types of projects.”

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Nicole Dotzenrod - Valley Breeze
nicole@valleybreeze.com

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