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Just-A-Start Corporation to Improve Property and Preserve Affordability for Working Families at Cambridge Housing Community with $30.1 Million in MassHousing Financing

273-unit Rindge Tower Apartments will have a workforce housing component for moderate income residents earning up to 95% of the area median income

Just-A-Start Corporation announces another substantive accomplishment to serve working families living in Cambridge. Executive Director Deborah Ruhe notes that the 273-unit Rindge Tower Apartments in Cambridge will see extensive property improvements and the preservation of affordability for at least 50 years as a result of $30.1 million in MassHousing financing.

Just-A-Start Corporation owns the Rindge Tower Apartments. As part of the MassHousing financing, apartments will be affordable to families with income levels ranging from extremely low – below 30% of the area median income (AMI) – to a workforce housing level of 95% AMI. The area median income for Cambridge is $98,500. Typically, the income level to qualify for an affordable unit is capped at 80% AMI. Just-A-Start’s mission JAS’s vision is a better future for all of its constituents – a secure home, a sustaining career, and engagement in the community. The Rindge Tower Apartments initiative represents a signature accomplishment well-aligned with Just-A-Start’s mission.

“The financing from MassHousing and Stratford Capital Group will allow Just-A-Start to make improvements to benefit low-income tenants, increase energy efficiency, and protect affordable housing for Cambridge residents,” said Deborah Ruhe, Just-A-Start’s Executive Director. “We are proud to be able to provide housing for those with disabilities as well as working families who cannot afford the high cost of living in the Cambridge. Rindge Tower will now be preserved for long-term affordability, providing quality housing that is close to public transit and all of the neighborhood’s amenities.”

MassHousing provided $21.1 million in construction and permanent financing, a $7.5 million bridge loan and a $1.5 million supplemental subordinate loan. Other funding sources for the $54.5 million project are Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs) and a Just-A-Start Seller Note. The Stratford Capital Group purchased the tax credits, contributing $11 million in project financing.

“Cambridge is one of the most expensive housing markets in the country and working families can sometimes find it difficult to find an affordable place to live,” said MassHousing’s Timothy C. Sullivan. “We are pleased that this transaction preserves long-term affordable housing but also will provide important workforce housing at up to 95% AMI for almost a third of the units at Rindge Tower.”

The Rindge Tower Apartments were built in 1970 and are located in a 22-story building in the Alewife section of Cambridge. There is a mix of studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments. Rents for 165 of the apartments are subsidized through the federal Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment program. According to the 2010 U.S. census, more than 65% of all housing units in Cambridge are rentals, and Cambridge is the 10th densest incorporated city in the United States.

Among the many property improvements planned for the Rindge Towers are plumbing, electrical and mechanical upgrades, kitchen and bathroom renovations, building exterior improvements, the installation of security cameras, and the addition of 14 fully-accessible units. The owner also intends to improve the overall energy efficiency of the building through window repair and sealing, recommissioning the building’s co-generation heating plant for maximum efficiency, and using water pressure regulators to minimize waste.

The contractor will be Bilt-Rite Construction, Inc. and the architect is Davis Square Architects. The management agent is the Wingate Companies.

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Bishop Allen and Norfolk Street Apartments Ribbon Cutting and Grand Re-opening

Just-A-Start is proud to celebrate the preservation and rehabilitation of this 32–unit family housing development that has not only preserved affordable housing in Cambridge, but also preserved a small piece of Cantabridgian history.

Located in the Central Square neighborhood, at the intersection of Bishop Allen Drive and Norfolk Street, the Bishop Allen Apartments consist of 27 three bedroom and five two bedroom apartments in four buildings originally built as residential hotels in the 1880s.After the City Housing staff exhausted marathon negotiation efforts with the prior owners to secure a preservation deal, Just-A-Start became a partner to prevent these units from converting to market rate rents.

Crucial financing came from the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust, the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC), Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation (MHIC) and HomeFunders. This effort represents the team approach so often employed in Cambridge. The story behind this success includes a leadership role from the Cambridge Housing Authority in securing the vouchers, efforts of the advocate community including: Cambridge Somerville Legal Services (CaSLS), Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee (CEOC), Association of Cambridge Tenants (ACT) and the guidance of Emily Achtenberg, one of our region’s leading preservation experts.

The buildings were renovated in a way that enhances the original architecture thanks to a grant from the Cambridge Historical Commission and Massachusetts Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits. Project funding also includes MassDevelopment, Boston Private Bank & Trust, Brookline Bank, MHIC, and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). These sources provided over $5.4 million for rehab and improvement at the property.

The project blends deep retrofit with historic preservation by adding rigid insulation to the outside of the building for energy efficiency and durability. Historic details, which had been lost to vinyl siding, were recreated, bringing together the oft-competing goals of creating efficient buildings and restoring
historic heritage. The renovation also includes new energy efficient windows, kitchens and bathrooms, flooring and interior doors, boilers and roofs at two of the buildings, fire sprinkler systems throughout, and the conversion of two units for wheelchair accessibility.

Speakers included: Chrystal Kornegay, Undersecretary of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development; David P. Maher, Mayor, City of Cambridge; Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, City of Cambridge; Anne L. Randall, Executive Vice President, COO, Boston Private Bank & Trust; Joseph Flatley, President and CEO, Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation; Tim Toomey, State Representative; Marjorie Decker, State Representative; Roger Herzog, Executive Director, Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC); Charles Sullivan, Executive Director, Cambridge Historical Commission; and Jennifer Ramsey, Resident, 62 Bishop Allen Drive. Also speaking were Deborah Ruhe, Executive Director of Just-A-Start, and Peter Munkenbeck, President of the Just-A-Start Board of Directors.

Special thanks go to the rehab team:
General Contractor: Curtis Construction Company, Stoughton, MA
Architect: Winslow Architects, Arlington, MA
Management Agent: Maloney Properties, Wellesley, MA
Legal: Klein, Hornig
Development Consultant: Emily Achtenberg

And to funders, acquisition financing, and community partners:
Boston Private Bank & Trust Company
Brookline Bank
Cambridge Historical Commission
City of Cambridge and Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust
Clocktower Tax Credits
Commerce Insurance
Commonwealth of Massachusetts, DHCD: Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) and CIPF Funding
Massachusetts Historical Commission
Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation (MHIC)
Mass Development
MassHousing as administrator for DHCD AHTF
Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust
Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC)
Home Funders Collaborative
Cambridge Housing Authority
Alliance of Cambridge Tenants (ACT)
Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services (CASLS)
Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee (CEOC)

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JAS Spotlight: The Renovation of Bishop Allen Apartments

This fall, Just-A-Start will celebrate the completion of a $16 million development that has already drawn praise from city officials and neighborhood groups alike for not only preserving affordable housing in Cambridge, but preserving a small piece of Cantabridgian history.

Before

Before

After

After

Located in the Central Square neighborhood, at the intersection of Bishop Allen Drive and Norfolk Street, the Bishop Allen Apartments consist of 32 apartments in four buildings and were originally built as residential hotels in the 1880s.

Just-A-Start purchased the units which were at risk of converting to market rate rents with financing from the City of Cambridge and the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC). The buildings are being renovated in a way that enhances the original architecture thanks to a grant from the Cambridge Historical Commission and Massachusetts Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits. Project funding also includes MassDevelopment, Boston Private Bank, Brookline Bank, MHIC, and the State’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

The project includes energy efficient windows and new insulation, upgraded kitchens and bathrooms, new flooring, and a high efficiency boiler. New doors, the de-leading of old painted surfaces and new paint, the removal of vinyl siding, and a return to the original design, are also part of the project, as is restoration of the architectural details of the historic buildings.

Upon completion this fall, the renovated apartment complex will boast 27 three-bedroom units, and five two-bedroom units.

“This is a big part of what we do at Just-A-Start, and it’s a great example of the role our organization plays in this community,” explained Peter Graham, JAS’s director of real estate. “We strengthen our community by providing low and middle income families, teachers, health care professionals, and many others with affordable housing and all the while, preserving a little history, too.”

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Housing and Biomedical Careers Working Together

 

Helen_ForWebsite

Helen Ekeh, a resident at JAS’s 402 Rindge Avenue, wanted to challenge herself and dreamed of succeeding in a career that seemed so far away. She worked as a Residential Counselor in a group home and although she liked it, ultimately she didn’t feel challenged. She left to raise her son and although the rewards of motherhood are great, she waited for the right time to move her career forward.

In September of 2014, a flyer posted at 402 for the “JAS Biomedical Careers Program” caught her attention. She took a picture of the flyer with her phone. Daily, she looked at the picture knowing that JAS Biomedical Careers Program is where she wanted to begin again. Helen’s son thought she was joking about going back to school. He said, “Mommy you never dress up”! She hopes her experience will set an example for her son, “Look at me…I can do it and you can too.”

Helen contacted Just-A-Start and her journey began with her acceptance into the program. Nothing could stop her, not even her car breaking down on the way to her first class; she took a taxi to Bunker Hill Community College. She joined students from various backgrounds, but a common goal – to make a better life. When she first met JAS staff, Helen beamed “Brenda was so warm as if she had known me all my life”. JAS staff support helped Helen relax to focus on her motivation and goals. Helen became emotional and said “I pray it will be a motivation for my son.”

Helen said the JAS program “opened her eyes” to the world around her. She thought “where have I been? I’ve been living in Cambridge for ten years and didn’t realize all the biotech companies here.” Helen graduated near the top of her class on May 19thand is working with the JAS biomedical team for job placement.

Her dreams do not stop here. Helen is already thinking of continuing her education. The decision to return to school changed her life. She had the support from not only the JAS staff, but friends and neighbors. “They helped me and believed in me.”

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Happy New Year!

Peter-Paul-Payack_525_670

Cambridge rings in the New Year, by Peter Paul Payack. First featured in the Cambridge Chronicle.

Happy New Year!

Peter Paul Payack welcomed the New Year to Cambridge with this cartoon featuring our building at 402 Rindge Avenue. It’s a positive reminder that these buildings are symbolic of the city and that we have high hopes for the new year.

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