Ribbon-cutting at Downing Square, Dec. 2, 2021. / Melanie Gilbert photoRibbon-cutting at Downing Square on Dec. 2. / Melanie Gilbert photo

An estimated 75 people attended the ribbon-cutting for two projects, years in the making by the Housing Corporation of Arlington that are expected to result in 48 units of housing described as affordable and 2,500 square feet of community food-pantry space.

More photos >>

Five of the housing units are set aside for the homeless who will receive subsidies and services from the Somerville Homeless Coalition, the nonprofit HCA says. Funding for the projects totaled $22.6 million when it was approved in 2019.

The name of the project -- the Downing Square Broadway Initiative -- combines two town locations, one in East Arlington and one near the Heights. 

Downing Square photo, HCA 2021 newsletterDowning Square / Frank Tadley photo

Photo 117 Broadway, 2017 HCA newsletter117 Broadway / Frank Tadley photo

DeCourcey: 'Proud as a town'

Steve DeCourcey, Select Board chair, told those gathered at Downing Square: “We’re proud as a town to have contributed through the Community Preservation Act and Community Development Block Grants over $1 million to these two projects. We look forward to a continued partnership with the Housing Corporation of Arlington.”

Clarissa Rowe, Community Preservation Act Committee chair, said: “The CPA was the smallest funder, but the committee is an important way of getting other money into town. The best community housing in Arlington has been done by HCA. The adaptive reuse that they have done really fits into the neighborhood. It is for the community, and part of the community. The people who live in the units are very much welcomed to our community."

She praised Pam Hallett, the former executive director, under whose nine-year watch, the projects grew: She "did a wonderful job. She's a woman who sees possibilities. As the HCA goes forward looking for a new executive director, find one with Pam’s spirit. I know she’s got elbows – I have elbows, too. You need that because these deals are very complex. I also want to thank the political leadership of the town, and our state leaders. We’re real believers in community housing, and having community housing take off.”

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said: “From the program, you can see how many people and organizations it takes to pull together these amazing projects.”

       Racer: 'A hard project'

Catherine Racer, director of the state Department of Housing & Community Development, said: "This was a hard project. Adam has been an absolute pleasure for the department to work with. It looks like the federal money now is coming. Adam will be getting money. The department will be getting money. Even though it’s hard to find opportunities in Arlington, I’m very hopeful – because you guys are clever and creative – that we have the chance to work with [Arlington] on another project using this incredible federal money.”

Alexis Turgeon, director North Suburban Consortium HOME, added: “Over at the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development, we really strive to undertake these housing assistance [projects] such as this development to alleviate the immense need for affordable units throughout the North Suburban’s eight communities. It’s through these strong partnerships with mission-driven organizations such as HCA, to construct and manage deeply affordable units that allows us to achieve our vision and goals. This development will give 48 families healthy and stable housing. We look forward to working on more projects such as this one in the future.”

Among others attending were state Rep. Dave Rogers and Sean Garballey, as well as Jeff Katz, interim HCA executive director, and Jenny Raitt, town director of planning and community development.

The properties are not quite ready for occupancy. Those present toured one floor in each building. All major construction is done, except in the Arlington EATS space, at 117 Broadway. Punch-list work -- such as fixtures, painting and attaching doors and windows -- remains.

Occupancy expected soon

Asked about occupancy dates for both properties, Katz told YourArlington Dec. 6 that he expects "a certificate of occupancy very shortly and expect the first apartments to be occupied by the end of the month or in early January.

"We had over 500 applicants in the lottery, so all units are spoken for and there is a waitlist."

At a later date, the HCA plans to dedicate a bench to Hallett at Downing Square, and she is said to be planning to attend. 

Hallett, who was executive director of the HCA from 2012 until last June. She heads her consulting firm near Chicago.

The recent HCA newsletter praised Hallett: "Under Pam’s leadership, HCA achieved significant success in its mission to provide, and advocate for, affordable housing in Arlington, including developing 92 units of affordable rental housing.

"Pam was also instrumental in growing HCA’s Homelessness Prevention Program, which has helped hundreds of families and individuals avoid the devastating crisis of homelessness. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Pam expanded the Homelessness Prevention Program to launch the temporary Emergency Response Initiative, which offers financial support to stabilize families and individuals directly impacted by the pandemic.

"Over many years, Pam has supported, and advocated for, policy initiatives, planning and zoning improvements, and a wide range of community activities that strongly contribute to the social and economic diversity in Arlington. HCA and the Arlington community are deeply grateful for Pam’s efforts to make Arlington a more livable, diverse and affordable community. The board members of HCA express our deepest thanks to Pam and wish her well."

Interim hired

HCA has hired Jeff Katz to serve as interim executive director, as directors conduct an executive search. Katz is a senior consultant with more than 40 years of experience serving nonprofit organizations and has served as interim executive director of 12 organizations, including three community-development corporations and a homeless shelter, the newsletter says.

Leading the search for a new executive director is Ann L. Silverman Consulting, a local firm that leads executive and senior management searches for community-development corporations, affordable-housing developers and funders in New England and beyond.

Dec. 1, 2021: HCA, in transition, unveils 2 projects

This news summary was published Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.