An inner city neighborhood once lost to blight and crime has undergone a transformation that officials believe could serve as a model for the entire country. The neighborhood revitalization in Springfield Massachusetts required substantial public financing, without which officials insist it could not have happened. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
The Upper Worthington Historic District was once what police call a “ hot spot”, a neighborhood under siege with high crime and extensive blight. But seven years and $70 million dollars later, more than a thousand people now live in the neighborhood and there is a waiting list for apartments.
Block after block of four story brick walk-ups, 27 buildings with 450 apartments were completely renovated inside and out.. The project included new sidewalks, landscaping and parking lots, a management office and community center for residents.
Gordon Pulsifer, the head of First Resource Development Company of Norwell Massachusetts, said the plan also included an extensive security system. Every apartment has a video intercom. There are more than 350 security cameras that monitor all common areas and the grounds surrounding each building.
Leandra Padilla, who moved into an apartment in the neighborhood a year before First Resource Company began the rehabilitation project, says the difference is like night and day.
State Representative Benjamin Swan says the transformation of the neighborhood should serve as a national model.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno concedes he was skeptical, at first, about developer Pulsifer’s plans.
City officials are now backing a Pulsifer led effort to revitalize a blighted area in another city neighborhood, and recently secured a $300 thousand planning grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, one of just 13 such grants awarded nationwide.
The work in the Upper Worthington Historic District was paid for with a combination of federal, state and city funds. This included tax credits from programs to advance low income housing and historic preservation.
Clark Ziegler, executive director of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership says public funding for the project was a must because rental income would be not sufficient to cover the capital costs.
The apartment buildings contain a mix of both rent subsidized apartments for low income people and market rate one, two and three bedroom apartments. Rents for two bedroom units are in the $700 to $800 a month range.