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February 17, 2014

Filling a need

Agency works to provide quality housing in Lawrence

LAWRENCE — This spring, 18 families are expected to move into new homes thanks to construction of a 4-story building at 108 Newbury St. by Lawrence CommunityWorks.

It is one of four projects the non-profit community development organization is currently working on to provide quality rental properties and homes for first-time buyers in the North Common neighborhood.

”When I look at Lawrence, I don’t see it the same way other people from outside the city do or others who have given up,” said Jessica Andors, executive director of LCW. “I see it as a very vibrant city with people who have overcome tremendous odds to come to a city rich in history, infrastructure and a fighting spirit. You don’t turn your back on those assets.”

Andors said 15 years ago 30 percent of the properties in the neighborhood were vacant and abandoned. That figure has decreased to 15 percent thanks to the work done by Lawrence CommunityWorks and private investors.

She said the area made up of low-income working families with 90 percent of its residents being Latino. Home ownership in that area is only 11 percent, compared to 32 percent of residents who own their homes in the city, Andors said. The goal is to increase the number to 20 percent in the North Common area and 40 percent throughout the city.

North Common is bounded by the Spicket River on the north and east; the mill district to the south and Jackson Street to the west. It encompasses Methuen, Essex, Jackson, Orchard, General, Brook, Island and Mill streets. Forty-six percent of its residents are at the poverty level, compared to 31.5 percent in the rest of the city.

Lawrence CommunityWorks also purchased an empty lot at 26-30 Milford St. for $50,000 and a vacant lot at 128-132 Union St. for $30,000 - both from the city of Lawrence.

In addition, the agency purchased the former Ippolitto Furniture showroom in the former Duck Mill at 4 Union St. in 2008 for $1.63 million.

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