Greenfield committee supports funding Hillside Park upgrade, 3 affordable housing projects

Greenfield City Hall

Greenfield City Hall STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Staff Writer

Published: 03-31-2024 12:05 PM

GREENFIELD — The Community Preservation Committee struck pickleball and informational kiosks out of its fiscal year 2024 Community Preservation Act grant funding recommendations on Thursday night, instead favoring money for three separate affordable housing projects, bicycle racks and a large-scale renovation of Hillside Park.

After roughly an hour and a half of discussion, the committee voted to recommend the allocation of about $300,000 in CPA funding toward numerous community projects, including a $125,000 renovation at Hillside Park, more than $90,000 for three affordable housing projects and approximately $50,000 for historic preservation. City Council will make the final decision.

The state Community Preservation Act allows municipalities to adopt a property tax surcharge of up to 3%, the revenues from which are matched by state funds. Greenfield joined the CPA in 2020 with a local surcharge, allowing the city to receive state-matched funding for projects and initiatives related to housing, historic preservation, open space conservation and outdoor recreation.

This year, the city’s Community Preservation Committee saw more than $1.48 million in requests for CPA project funding with only $300,000 in CPA funds available.

Historic preservation

The committee agreed to recommend the allocation of $34,800 to the “Garden Block building” to renovate the Garden Cinemas’ facade, aimed at protecting a National Register of Historic Places property and fostering economic development downtown.

The committee also approved the full $20,000 request for repairs to a historical property at 278 Main St. All requests for historical preservation funding were approved, partly because the largest-ticket item for historical preservation was withdrawn.

At the start of Thursday’s meeting, Economic and Community Development Assistant Christian LaPlante announced that Franklin Community Co-op withdrew its proposal for a $200,000 historic building renovation. LaPlante read an email from co-op Communications Manager Caitlin von Schmidt announcing the withdrawal of the CPA funding request.

“Because our timeline is still not set in stone, we would prefer to pass on this round of CPC funding so that another organization, for which this money could have a larger impact or a large impact, might have a higher chance of being funded,” LaPlante read. The letter references the co-op’s planned renovation of the former Wilson’s Department Store, which will ultimately house an expanded co-op on its first floor. “We very much appreciate the difficult work you and the committee do to make the tough decisions around funding distribution.”

Housing

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Cleary Jewelers plans to retain shop at former Wilson’s building until 2029
Orange man gets 12 to 14 years for child rape
$427K to expand Camp Apex capacity in Shelburne
Conway resident leading pilot program to help families facing financial ‘cliff effect’
Franklin County Technical School Honor Roll, Semester 1
Greenfield Police Logs: April 2 to April 8, 2024

The committee funded the entire $50,000 request for a downtown housing project and the entire $15,000 request from Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity to build an affordable, all-electric one-bedroom home at 184 Petty Plain Road.

“It gives people the opportunity, who are a single person or even a couple, to have a home,” Mariah Kurtz, president of Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity’s board of directors, said previously. “I would really like to be able to extend that to more people.”

The downtown housing project, proposed by Franklin & Main LLC, would partner with Rural Development Inc., a nonprofit created by the Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority, to develop “a housing concept that is responsive to community needs, financially feasible and competitive” for funding, while also enhancing the vibrancy of downtown Greenfield through a mix of apartments, according to the funding application.

Of the $170,000 Oxbow Design Build Cooperative requested to build affordable housing of up to 100% the area median income throughout the city, the committee approved funding for $25,650.

Community Preservation Committee Chairman Travis Drury said that with last year’s CPA funds having been allocated more heavily toward recreation than housing, he hoped to balance this year’s funding toward housing and historical preservation.

“We are funding recreation projects, too,” he said. “But just so that it’s not that every year, one category gets all the funding. Especially since in our plan, and all the public comments, everyone says housing is most important.”

Recreation

Aside from approving a $3,900 request for funding to install bicycle racks, the committee also supported a $125,000 renovation project to increase shade and reduce flooding at Hillside Park.

The Community Preservation Committee approved funding for the park renovation entirely, noting that the park is highly valuable to the town’s underserved families, and faces a lack of shade and handicap accessibility, despite its proximity to a senior housing facility.

“It’s just a really nice facility that gets a lot to use and also gets used a lot by some of our lower-income folks,” resident Melissa Webb said. “It’s not really a safe walking place for older people and I know we don’t really have a good handicapped accessible walkway.”

The committee voted not to fund a $572,000 request to construct pickleball courts, nor a $87,000 site amenities proposal to install informational signs and kiosks across the city.

“The reason I think we should fully fund Hillside Park, maybe at the expense of the signage, is just because it’s in an environmental justice area,” Drury said. “It’s something that everyone uses.”

City Council will vote on the committee’s funding recommendations at its next meeting April 17.

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at acammalleri@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.