Homelessness prevention, home buyer education, and other services are offered at Way Finders’ new Housing Center and headquarters in downtown Springfield, Mass.
Courtesy Way Finders Homelessness prevention, home buyer education, and other services are offered at Way Finders’ new Housing Center and headquarters in downtown Springfield, Mass.

Way Finders has pushed through the COVID-19 pandemic to complete its new headquarters and Housing Center in Springfield, Mass.

The 32,000-square-foot building is home to the organization’s many services, including homelessness prevention, home buyer education, and rental assistance. The largest nonprofit affordable housing provider in western Massachusetts, Way Finders also develops affordable housing and administers over 5,000 units of Section 8 housing.

In 2019, it provided more than 19,500 services that touched more than 52,000 men, women, and children.

“We call it the Housing Center because everybody who comes through the front door at Way Finders we’re going to provide services to whether it’s information and referral, help in finding an apartment, guidance to one of our programs,” says Laureen Borgatti, COO. “We’re going to help people when they walk through the door.”

Courtesy Way Finders

Way Finders had outgrown its previous space, so the new Housing Center will allow the organization to better assist clients by providing access to computers as well as nine new accessible meeting rooms.

“We’re providing such a variety of services that we needed to have a building that allowed for us to provide those different services to the community,”

The organization was finishing construction on the building when COVID-19 hit and then moved into the Housing Center during the pandemic. Way Finders had been seeing clients by appointment but was able to unlock the doors for regular business hours last week.

Financing for the $16.8 million center included a $4.2 million New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) investment, of which $2.43 million was from the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corp. (MHIC), $1.44 million from Vermont Rural Ventures, and $312,000 from Capital One.

“The project needed New Markets in order to come to fruition,” Borgatti says. “It was really important to the project and where we started.”

Courtesy Way Finders

Administered by the Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, the NMTC program helps economically distressed communities attract capital by providing investors with a federal tax credit. Over the years, the NMTC has supported a range of businesses, including manufacturing, retail, technology, and housing. In the latest NMTC allocation round, more than $3.5 billion was awarded to 76 community development entities.

"Way Finders' new Housing Center allows them to meet the diverse needs of their clients, with meeting spaces for counseling, assistance, training, and placement all under one roof, enhancing their ability to address the root causes of poverty in Springfield,” says Kathy McGilvray, director of investment at MHIC. “New Market Tax Credits were essential to closing a $4 million gap in financing for the center's development."

Additional funding included tax-exempt bonds, state funds, and significant fundraising by Way Finders.

In addition to being a new home for the nonprofit, the Housing Center is significant for the larger Springfield community by helping to revitalize the downtown neighborhood.Designed by Kuhn Riddle Architects, the new development replaces the city’s former bus terminal.

The new Union Station is located across the street, making it convenient for clients who rely on the buses that travel through the terminal.

Looking ahead, Way Finders will play an even greater role. It is partnering with the city on a new effort to help residents avoid homelessness amid increasing unemployment due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s a very important connection to the community even more so than before,” Borgatti says.