EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 29, 2009

Cambridge developer gets state-backed financing to develop Lawrence housing

By Bill Kirk

LAWRENCE — With state financial help, a Cambridge developer is renovating 35 townhouses off Market Street into affordable housing.

Using $4 million in low-interest loans, Stephen Wolfberg, along with business partner Ken Stoll, will be renovating five buildings that once housed immigrants who worked in the Lawrence mills around the turn of the century.

MassDevelopment, a quasi-public financing agency, announced yesterday that it had sold $4 million in tax-exempt bonds to Enterprise Bank, which will then turn around and use that money to make a low-interest loan to Wolfberg, a retired attorney who specializes in creating affordable housing throughout the state.

The $4 million loan, explained Wolfberg, will help finance the development of the $8 million project, which includes a $3 million purchase price and $5 million in renovation costs.

In addition to the low-interest loan, Wolfberg will also take advantage of low-income tax credits to develop the property.

He said there are actually six townhouse buildings, located perpendicular to Market Street with addresses on Washington, Prospect and Wood ways, across from Jackson Lumber.

One of the buildings has already been renovated, but the other five, which contain 35 townhouses, will be completely gutted and rehabilitated, he said.

When renovations are finished, the project's 35 brick townhouse units will be designated affordable with 11 of the units offered to families earning at or below 30 percent of the area median income and the balance offered to individuals and families earning at or below 60 percent of the area median income. The first 14 units are open and serve as transitional housing for homeless families.

"Now more than ever, we must replenish and renew the Commonwealth's affordable housing stock by providing cost effective financing solutions for developers of these projects," said Robert L. Culver, MassDevelopment president/CEO.

Scheduled improvements include gut rehabilitation with the installation of new roofing, electrical and heating systems, plaster, plumbing, kitchens and bathrooms; and de-leading of the structure's interior and exterior. The property consists of 10 three-bedroom and 25 two-bedroom units located steps from downtown Lawrence and the MBTA commuter rail station.

"As families face tough economic times and difficult decisions about how to spend their hard-earned dollars, the ability to provide low-cost housing options becomes even more important," Wolfberg said. "These bonds are making it possible to revitalize 35 units of affordable housing that might otherwise have reverted to market-rate uses or fallen into disrepair."

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