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Arch Street in the News : The Woonsocket Call

Clark Biscuit Feature
Preservation Massachusetts
Arch Street brings right ingredients for Clark Biscuit rehab
St. Ann's Apartments in The Valley Breeze
St. Ann's Apartments in The Providence Journal
St. Ann's Apartments in The Woonsocket Call
St. Ann's Apartments in Rhode Island Housing
NH&RA Announces Finalists for 2007 Historic Rehabilitation Awards
December 12, 2006
Sanctuary in the City
Former St. Ann’s Parish buildings ready to house 25 families
By Joseph Fitzgerald, Staff Writer

Woonsocket – Twenty-five families will have a place to call home this holiday season after federal, state and local officials Monday unveiled a $7.1 million renovation project that transformed the former St. Ann’s school, parish house and convent on Gaulin Avenue and Cumberland Street into affordable apartments.

Arch Street Development Corp. of Needham, Mass., converted the former St. Ann’s Rectory, 82 Cumberland Street and St. Ann’s School, 114 Gaulin Avenue into 25 lead-free apartment units targeting residents earning as little as 40 percent of the city’s median family income of $20,480 for a household of one.

Rents range from $523 a month for a one-bedroom apartment to $887 for a three-bedroom unit.

“We’ve tried to create units that residents will be proud of for a long time,” Colin O’Keeffe, Principal of Arch Street Development, told a gathering at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the occaision. Keynote speakers were Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI).

The ceremony was followed by tours of the St. Ann’s Apartments, a renovation project that retained many of the buildings’ historic features and restored original architectural details such as wainscoting and tin ceilings.

Arch Street Development Corp. was hired by All Saints Parish two years ago to oversee the renovation project. All Saints Parish at 323 Rathburn Street was formed in 2001 through the consolidation of St. Ann, St. Louis and Our Lady of Victories parishes, under orders of the Diocese of Providence. The landmark St. Ann Church, which is between the rectory and the school, is owned by a non-profit group dedicated to running the building as a self-supporting arts and cultural center. The apartment project was sold to the developer, with the profits dedicated to maintenance and capital improvements at All Saints Parish.

Funding for the renovation project came from several sources, including grants and below-market interest rate loans from Rhode Island Housing totaling $846,000. The state Housing Resources Commission invested $175,000 through the state Neighborhood Opportunities Program, which creates affordable homes for minimum wage-earning workers and people with disabilities, and the City of Woonsocket contributed $96,000 for lead remediation in the 100-year-old building.

“Adaptive reuse projects such as St. Ann’s Apartments are complex transactions that require multiple layers of equity and debt to achieve feasibility,” said O’Keeffe. “Each piece of funding generated through tax credits and through our debt partners was critical and came together to make this redevelopment a reality.”

“This is a great example of how public and private partnership can create new affordable housing and revitalize our neighborhoods,” said Reed, who sits on the subcommittee that oversees federal housing programs. “These new apartments will allow a lot of hard-working families to have high-quality affordable housing near where they work or go to school.”

Said Reed: “This is a wonderful example of how a collaboration of state and federal resources and the creative use of funding sources can turn an old building like this and give it a useful life.”

“I think everyone here can agree that affordable housing is not a privilege, it’s a basic human right, a mark of dignity government should strive to provide every opportunity for people to achieve.” Kennedy said. “A safe, affordable place to live helps build communities where families can thrive and children can feel safe to walk down the street to school. I am so impressed with the success of this project and the team effort that it took to get the job down.”

Kennedy noted that the project’s unveiling couldn’t have happened at a better time of the year. “This can be a very difficult time of the year for many people who find themselves estranged from their families or who are alone and isolated,” he said. “It’s gratifying to see people in our communities who are making sure people have a home that is affordable. And isn’t that really the whole spirit of the season? To reach out to one another and give to one another.”

Kennedy also applauded the city’s financial contribution for lead abatement in the building, noting that at 8.2 percent, the city had the state’s 11th highest rate of lead-poisoned children eligible to enter kindergarten in 2006.

“Our primary goal is to provide quality housing to individuals and families where escalating housing costs continue to outpace wage growth,” said Rich Relich, Principal of Arch Street Development. “If we can simultaneously preserve and revitalize under-utilized historic structures for our cities and towns, then redevelopment projects such as St. Ann’s Apartments will continue to be successful.”