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Governor lauds restoration of Main Street apartment block

Date: 8/31/2010

Sept. 1, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- The Borinquen Apartments on Main Street, between Huntington and Greenwich streets, have a deep meaning to developer Heriberto Flores. His family once lived in the block that was largely unoccupied due to a fire over five years ago.

Six years ago, Flores and the New England Farm Workers Council started the process to rehabilitate the buildings. On Thursday, Gov. Deval Patrick joined Flores, Mayor Domenic Sarno, State Sen. Stephen Buoniconti and State Reps. Cheryl Coakley Rivera and James Welch in a dedication ceremony for the project.

With construction workers looking on from the back porches of the building and an audience from the neighborhood -- many of who were wearing "I'm with Deval" stickers -- Patrick said the project was an example of collaboration between local, state and federal governments as well as the private sector.

The building is on the way back to occupancy through a substantial $11 million renovation and is the first phase of work that will transform the block. Flores said that once the present apartments on the Huntington Street side are finished, he would begin work on the building on the Greenwich Street side, as well as demolish another building to provide access to the rear of the apartment buildings.

Flores said American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, HOME Investment Partnership funds through the state and city, historic tax credits from the state and federal tax credits funded the project. He thanked Chicopee Savings Bank for providing the construction loan and financing for the project.

Construction began in April and the first phase should be completed in December, he said. There is already a list of tenants, he added.

When completed there will be 41 affordable income apartments, 23 of which will be designated by the National Park Service as "historically significant." There will also be six retail business storefronts.

Raymond Jordan of the Department of Housing and Urban Development described the project as an example of "quality affordable housing."

Flores said 180 workers have had jobs through the project. The workforce has been a combination of both union workers and non-union residents from the North End neighborhood.

John Judge, the city's chief development officer, said the apartment rehabilitation is one of 138 economic development projects currently being undertaken in the city.

Sarno said, "This is how you improve and take back a neighborhood -- street by street, block by block and house by house."

Patrick acknowledged he was in the middle of a re-election campaign and said that some people would say government should leave such a project "to the marketplace it will sort it out."

Stating he was a capitalist and saying the North End reminds him of his neighborhood in Chicago, he added, "The market looks the other way when it comes to neighborhoods like this."

Referring to the economic status of the state, he noted that 60,000 jobs have been added in the past months and Massachusetts is out-performing 48 other states in growth. Speaking of Republican Charles Baker and Independent Tim Cahill, his two opponents in the race, Patrick called them "good people who have opposed everything and we haven't seen an alternative [from them] yet."

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