Great Barrington — The 100 Bridge Street affordable housing project reached a major milestone when the Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire announced this week that the $17.8 million project has secured its financing for the Bentley Apartments.
The project will provide 45 new affordable apartments for families with incomes of up to approximately $53,000, just east of downtown on the eastern bank of the Housatonic River. Construction has already begun with the site work for the initial building and the apartments will be available by late spring 2021, CDC said in a statement announcing the financing.
The closing is the culmination of the complex funding process from 14 separate local, state, federal and private funding sources that includes the state Department of Housing and Community Development, MassHousing/Affordable Housing Trust Fund, Berkshire Bank, Federal Home Loan Bank Boston, Redstone Equity Partners, TD Bank, Dorfman Capital, and the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation, as well as funds awarded by the Great Barrington Community Preservation Committee.
“This was a very complicated closing, given the challenges of the site,” said CDC executive director Tim Geller. “We are especially grateful to Mass. DHCD for their commitment and support through this process.”
The site has a long and controversial history. In 2016, the CDC received the go-ahead from the zoning board of appeals to build the 45 affordable housing units. Eventually, the then-$40 million project was expected to add a mix of market-rate residential units and retail space.
The 100 Bridge Street location is the former site of the New England Log Homes factory, which used chemicals to treat wood for log cabins and homes there. The company closed in 1994 and what was left of the factory burned in a fire in 2001.
The CDC purchased the polluted property in 2007 and the charred factory ruins were demolished and removed some four years later. The property had been used for industrial purposes even before New England Log Homes started its operations there.
In 2014, CDC began to remediate the site using a process known as bioremediation, but the state Department of Environmental Protection put a stop-work order on the operation after neighbors complained about the odor during a summer of heavy rains. Eventually the department shut down the process altogether, leaving CDC to come up with another strategy to deal with the PCPs and dioxins left by New England Log Homes.
CDC’s latest plan, which was accepted, was to remove the toxic soil and pile it up on three separate berms on the property. The contaminated soil will be covered with a hard protective layer that includes Geofabric. Clean soil will then be added over the top and vegetation planted.
Geller says the Bentley Apartments will meet the growing challenge of affordable housing confronting 40% of working families in the southern Berkshires, and CDC thinks the housing will help to “address slowing regional economic growth.”
The 45 apartments include 12 one-bedroom units, 22 two-bedroom units, and 11 three-bedroom units. All have universal wheelchair access. The project also includes a 1-acre restored riverfront walk along the Housatonic River. The CDC is the co-sponsor and developer. The managing agent, co-sponsor and developer will be the Berkshire Housing Development Corporation and its president Elton Ogden, whom Geller said played a key role in the closing.
“Bentley Apartments exemplifies community-centered, low-carbon-footprint development,” said Geller. “It provides high quality, extremely energy efficient units with walkable access to jobs, services, shopping, cultural amenities, Berkshire Community College, parks, houses of worship and town hall.”
As for CDC’s plans for the rest of the property, Geller has previously said he was in “advanced talks” with a company about building an 80-unit senior housing complex on the northern end of the property with both independent and assisted living. Geller said that company is no longer in the picture but he has reached out others who might be interested in a similar project.
“We are still marketing to that niche,” Geller told The Edge. “It still seems to be a good fit and it would fill a need in the community.”