The Community Builders (TCB) has rescued a long-abandoned mill building, turning it into affordable housing in Worcester, Mass.
The Lofts at Loomworks maintains the historic fabric of the neighborhood while providing 94 new homes for low- and extremely low-income families.
“It’s a beacon of revitalization for the neighborhood,” says Michael Lozano, senior project manager at TCB. “The building was empty, abandoned, blighted for 30-plus years. Now, it’s full of life again.”
Built in the late 1800s as the headquarters for the Crompton and Knowles Loom Works company, the property was part of a larger complex of buildings. Over the past 40 years, the business and other area manufacturers closed or relocated, leaving behind their factories and causing the neighborhood to become blighted.
The Crompton and Knowles site was critical to Worcester’s revitalization plans, but the development team faced challenges. When one of the neighboring buildings at the complex was demolished by the city, it resulted in TCB not being able to access historic tax credits, a key financing source in historic-rehab projects.
The development team had to come up with a new strategy to keep the deal alive. To finance the $27.3 million transaction, the nonprofit developer created a master condominium structure to utilize both 9% and 4% low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) within a single building. One condominium unit includes 55 apartments and was funded primarily with 9% credits. The other includes 39 apartments and was funded primarily with tax-exempt bonds and 4% credits. The LIHTCs provided approximately $13.9 million to the project.
In addition, the project used Neighborhood Stabilization Program 1 and 2 funds of $1.5 million each and a $400,000 federal Sustainable Communities Challenge Planning Grant.
All of the apartments serve families earning no more than 60% of the area median income (AMI), with 19 units reserved for those earning no more than 30% of the AMI. TCB, in collaboration with the Main South Community Development Corp., provides resident services including education and employment training. Through University Park Partnership with nearby Clark University, eligible residents have access to a free-tuition program.
In addition to providing housing, The Lofts at Loomworks remediated a brownfield to improve environmental conditions in the area. It also preserved a part of Worcester’s past. Historic touches can be found throughout the building, including an old bank vault that has been integrated into the common area.
“It’s a huge benefit to the neighborhood,” Lozano says. “The historic character of the building plays an enormous role in people’s enjoyment of their new apartments.”