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Meghan Gleason and Neil DeCarolis break ground at Cole Avenue and Maple Street, where their new house will be built through Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity.
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The family expects to move in to completed house next year.
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Paul Austin, left, listens as Affordable Housing Trust Chairman Thomas Sheldon speaks.
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Officials took turns using shovels to turn sod at the ceremonial groundbreaking.

Habitat, Affordable Housing Trust Break Ground on Williamstown Project

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The two houses to be built on the land will be similar and style and were designed by architect Dana Bixby of Stockbridge.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Meghan Gleason didn't think she had a chance at a house. 
 
She got the application to apply for a Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity house only three days before it was due. But she got some extra time to complete all the necessary paperwork. 
 
"And then all of a sudden, we had a home interview, and then all of a sudden, we had a second interview," an elated Gleason said. "And then I had a break at work and got a phone call and they said, 'Hey, we want to offer you this house in Williamstown,' and it was just unreal. Unreal."
 
That house came closer to reality on Sunday afternoon when Gleason and Neil DeCarolis broke ground on a new home for their family with some two dozen friends and officials in attendance. 
 
They and their four boys - Cameron, Caleb, Christian and Connor - hope to move in about a year from now. 
 
Habitat for Humanity aids first-time homeowners willing to put some elbow grease into building or renovating houses alongside volunteers and professionals. In this case, it's a joint project with the town's Affordable Housing Trust proving the land. 
 
It's been a long process to get to this point, including gaining state approval under Chapter 40B to build what will be two homes on the property at the corner of Cole Avenue and Maple Street. It took time for the state Department of Housing and Community Development to sign off on the project because it will be two separate buildings on nonconforming lots.  
 
"About two years ago, we started out with a very small number of conversations with the Affordable Housing Trust," said Paul Austin, building project manager for Habitat. "And eventually we kind of came to the idea that maybe Habitat could build these houses that they were interested in for affordable housing." 
 
The trust was created in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene as the flooding forced the closure of the Spruces Mobile Home Park and brought the town's lack of affordable housing into stark relief. 
 
The Cole Avenue lots and another off Summer Street were purchased with the intention of using them for affordable housing and Habitat was selected as the developer from a request for proposals issued in 2017.
 
"We've tried to engage the community here, the neighbors, to make sure that what's done here feels right and make sense for the neighborhood," said Thomas Sheldon, chairman of the trust. "I just want you to know that the neighbors here have been constructive in their questions. They have been thoughtful, and they have been interested. And once Habitat and we as a trust have moved on, this would be a welcome neighborhood for people to move into. And that's important to both organizations."
 
Several neighbors were in attendance and introduced themselves to the couple. Members of Habitat and the trust, as well as Select Board members and members of First Congregational Church of North Adams, where Gleason sings in the choir, also attended. 
 
The Rev. Carolyn Peck, pastor of First Congregational, offered a prayer for the work ahead. 
 
"We thank you for everyone here who is making this opportunity possible for them as well as all the willing and hard-working individuals and volunteers will be involved in the months ahead to help make this family's dream come true," she said. "We especially thank you for the ministry of Habitat for Humanity, not only here in the groundbreaking and building of this new home, but for every home they built around this county in this state and around the country and world."
 
Austin and Sheldon also thanked a number of people who helped bring the project to fruition, including the late Richard DeMayo, who Sheldon described as having "encyclopedic knowledge of properties in town" that proved invaluable in the search for buildable lots.
 
DeCarolis and Gleason turned over the first sod — though not easily — and officials and board members took turns at the shovels as well. Gleason posed with a large sign with the date and plans to continue that practice to mark the project's progress.
 
The owners of the home on the abutting lot will be chosen once this one near completion, with the Summer Street project following after that. 
 
"It's a joyous occasion when we can create new housing that is affordable and accessible, and responsive to the needs and in the process helps to diversify the housing stock in this town," Sheldon said. "It's just delightful that we're providing that now and into the future as well."

Tags: affordable housing trust,   groundbreaking,   habitat for humanity,   

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Nine Williams College Seniors Win Fellowships to Study at Cambridge and Oxford

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College has announced the winners of the Dr. Herchel Smith Fellowship for graduate study at Cambridge University’s Emmanuel College, the Martin-Wilson Fellowship for graduate study at Worcester College at Oxford University, and the Donovan-Moody Fellowship for graduate study at Exeter College at Oxford University. 

The seven seniors awarded the Herchel Smith Fellowship are Tania Calle, Nicholas Goldrosen, Grace Kromm, Jake Rinaldi, Crispin Jay (CJ) Salapare, Suiyi Tang and Meklit Tesfaye. Joseph Moore was awarded the Martin-Wilson Fellowship, and Emmie Hine was awarded the Donovan-Moody Fellowship.

Calle, a political science major from Corona, Queens, N.Y., plans to pursue an M.Phil. in public health and public policy. Aiming to further her understanding of the social and ecological framework of health while also building her epidemiological, statistical, and ethnographic skill set, she intends to study the relationship between the adoption of restrictive immigration policy measures and immigrant communities’ wellbeing. At Williams, she was the chair of Vista, the Latinx student organization, and the Coalition for Immigrant Student Advancement. She also participated in College Council, was a member of the Berkshire Doula Project, and was a dancer/choreographer for Ritmo Latino. In 2019, she was awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

Goldrosen, a mathematics and political science major from Brooklyn, N.Y., will pursue an M.Phil. in criminological research. He is particularly interested in researching the effectiveness of police oversight organizations at improving public perceptions of law enforcement via procedural justice. At Williams, he was active with the student newspaper and served as editor in a variety of capacities, including editor-in-chief. He also was co-president of the Junior Advisor Advisory Board and student chair of the Honor and Discipline Committee. As the recipient of two summer research fellowships, he examined the administration of justice in county courthouses across the United States, as well as privately-run juvenile alternative sentencing programs in Berkshire County.

Hine, a Chinese and computer science major from Chicago, Ill., plans to complete an M.Sc. in social sciences of the internet. With an interest in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) governance, she studied at the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford during her junior year, where she conducted research at the university’s Centre for the Governance of AI. At Williams, she served on the Computer Science Student Advisory Committee and was a Chinese teaching assistant. In summer 2017, she attended the Harvard Beijing Academy, and she has completed internships in cybersecurity and information technology at Chicago-based companies Braintree and Beam Suntory, respectively.

Kromm, a chemistry and psychology major from Winchester, Mass., will pursue a Ph.D. in clinical neurosciences. With an interest in studying the relationship between sleep architecture, functional brain connectivity, and neurodevelopmental outcomes in vulnerable infants, she aims to study under the direction of neonatologist Topun Austin, co-director of neoLAB, a collaboration between the Cambridge Centre for Perinatal Neuroscience and the Biomedical Optics Research Laboratory at University College London. At Williams, she was a peer tutor, lab teaching assistant, and research assistant in the chemistry department. She is currently a neuroscience thesis student in the Carter Lab, where she studies mouse feeding behavior using optogenetics.

Moore, a comparative literature major from Kunkletown, Pa., plans to pursue an M.Sc. in social anthropology, and then an M.St. in comparative literature and critical translation. Expanding on his senior thesis at Williams, which examines how the work of Jean Genet and Roberto Bolaño use comparison to frame global political issues, he aims to research the way in which many international political discourses, like that of human rights, take shape through different kinds of implicit and explicit comparison across national contexts. The recipient of numerous honors and awards, he has also written creative pieces for Adbusters as well as political articles and op-eds for Jacobin Magazine, The Berkshire Eagle, and The Williams Record.

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