Lawrence Community Works
Duck Mill, Lawrence, MA.
$1,467,000 Interim Acquisition Loan
Purpose: Multifamily Low-income Construction
The area served by Lawrence CommunityWorks has long been a gateway city for immigrants. Being a mill town attracted Eastern European and other immigrants, and more recently East Africans and Latinos. “These communities are poor and have substandard housing,” said Lisa Kozol, CommunityWorks’ director of real estate development. “There have not been a lot of housing or other options,” such as language programs, courts’ services, youth leadership opportunities, and many other services CommunityWorks provides.
CHC has helped greatly on the affordable housing front. First, CHC lent CommunityWorks $390,000 so that they could top off the 90 percent of funding they got from other lenders to acquire a former mill building. “We had no other way to come up with that 10 percent,” Kozol said. Once the site was acquired, CommunityWorks was able to leverage an additional $30 million to rehab the building, most recently vacated by Brooks Brothers’ clothiers, which moved to a more practical building, “keeping the same employees, which was great,” she said. A combination of LIHTCs, some federal stimulus dollars, traditional bank products and other local funding pulled it all together.
The 108-year-old building was renovated to in such a way as to provide 60 affordable units – “not lofts, which is how these old buildings are often rehabbed” – as well as 35,000 sq. ft. of commercial space on the first two floors. CommunityWorks also completely transformed the parking site, installing necessary stormwater drainage. Much attention was paid to making it a green building, with photovoltaic panels on the roof, energy efficient windows, an efficient heating system and other features.
CHC’s second loan was much larger -- $1.467 million, which was 90 percent of the funding needed to purchase an abandoned mill across the street from the first one. “It’s going to be another mixed-use development with between 70 to 75 apartments for families,” Kozol said. “It will also be energy efficient and have probably 10,000 sq. ft. of commercial space. CommunityWorks got some predevelopment financing from local lenders in Mass., the local LISC office, and the Smart Energy Design Assistance Center(SEDAC), and it has applied for LIHTCs. “If we’re funded we’ll break ground late next year,” she said.
CommunityWorks has had a great experience with CHC. “They are a very user friendly lender, Kozol said. “They do require the same kinds of due diligence as other lenders, but they have the process down very well, so it was easy to get approved and get the loan. Their staff understands development work in this environment, including the demands on other financing sources, and they’ve given us extensions when we’ve needed them.”
The two projects have had a powerful effect on its community, beyond providing 130 units of housing that will remain affordable in perpetuity. The first site is a beautiful example of historic preservation, and the second – with its mix of affordable and market-rate housing – is contributing to giving the mil district of Lawrence, a good balance of middle-income and low-income families “that will really complement what happens in the district,” Kozol said.
“We really enjoy working with CHC. I say to other lenders, ‘CHC is the model others should be following.’”