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Housing, Arts Projects Apply for Williamstown CPA Funds

By Stephen Dravis
Williamstown Correspondent
10:47AM / Tuesday, December 24, 2013
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Minerva Arts Center is hoping to purchase the former Agway to develop a theater center, along with gardens and farmers market.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Affordable housing and a community arts project will be the big-ticket items on the agenda next month when the Community Preservation Committee reviews 2014 applications for Community Preservation Act money.
 
The Highland Woods senior housing project is seeking $100,000 in CPA funds, and the Minerva Arts Center is looking for $175,000 toward a proposed $1.5 million arts center on the former Agway property on Main Street.
 
The town CPA funds are generated from a property tax surcharge of 2 percent, with an exclusion for the first $100,000 of a property's assessed value. The town adopted the CPA tax in 2002. The money raised locally receives a partial match from the commonwealth.
 
The deadline for submitting requests for CPA funds was Dec. 19. The town on Monday posted online six applications that total $510,571. Last year, town meeting approved $292,000 in CPA awards.
 
Berkshire Housing Development Corp. is the lead developer on the Southworth Street Highland Woods project, which was spearheaded by local non-profit Higher Ground as replacement housing for displaced residents of the Spruces Mobile Home Park. Earlier this fall, Highland Woods was awarded $150,000 from the town's Affordable Housing Trust, and the project is in line for $2.6 million in town funds from a federal Hazard Mitigation Grant.
 
This month, the developers indicated at a meeting of the affordable housing trustees that CPA funds, which are approved at town meeting in May, would not be helpful to them in compiling their funding package before submitting applications for state money this winter. But the $100,000 request is in line with intentions expressed at previous meeting on Dec. 4.
The total project cost for the 40-unit housing development is budgeted at $12 million.
 
The Affordable Housing Trust itself is looking for $75,000 to start a revolving fund with which the town can purchase and rehabilitate existing homes that can by deed-restricted and resold or rented to qualified buyers.
 
The trustees also are looking for $75,000 to help replenish the trust itself, which stood at about $400,000 prior to the $150,000 grant to Highland Woods. The trust, which was established at town meeting 2012, has received $200,000 in CPA money each of the last two years.
 
The Williamstown Historical Museum submitted a request for $17,571 to support "preservation, conservation and exhibition of several carefully selected works of historical importance" from the museum's collection and "ongoing curatorial research." The museum itself has budgeted more than $4,000 of its money toward the effort.
 
The Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation has applied for $68,000 to help preserve 220 acres of farmland owned by James Galusha under the commonwealth's Agriculture Preservation Restriction program. WRLF and Galusha himself have committed $68,800 toward the $136,800 project.
 
CPA funds are designated for community purposes: historic preservation, community housing, outdoor space and recreation.
 
The Minerva Arts Center application ticks three of those boxes: preservation, outdoor space and recreation.
 
The MAC, formerly housed at the former Incarnation Church on Massachusetts Avenue in North Adams, wants to create a 250-seat indoor performance space, outdoor educational summer stage, teaching gardens, space for a farmers market and more on the Main Street parcel that formerly was home to Agway. The arts initiative has been operating an indoor tag sale in the building for nearly a year to raise funds for programming.
 
The CPA funds would be used for land build-out and landscaping and building renovation, according to a budget that accompanies MAC's request. The non-profit plans a $650,000 capital campaign to go along with a half-million mortgage, state and foundation grants and, it hopes, the $175,000 from the CPA.
 
The MAC says it has an agreement with the sellers for the purchase of the buildings and 3.47-acre parcel. The budget for acquisition is listed as $650,000. On Tuesday, Dec. 23, the property was listed with an asking price of $950,000. Northern Pines Realty Trust, with Maureen O'Mara as a trustee, is listed as the ownership of the property on the town's tax roll.
Minerva Arts hopes to have its project fully operational by the first quarter of 2016.
 
The town's Community Preservation Committee will begin considering applications at its Jan. 21 meeting.

Tags: affordable housing,   CPA,   

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