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Unity Place Apartments latest development in Moody street neighborhood transformation

Unity Place

Unity Place Apartments is the crowning achievement in the Coalition for a Better Acre’s $80 million transformation of the Moody Street corridor in Lowell over the past two decades. In May 2009, CBA purchased two of the city’s more notorious blighted properties at 478-486 Moody St. and the Unity Place project was born. The development opened its doors to residents in December 2011.

Residents have compared CBA’s success in the Moody Street corridor to the popular “Extreme Makeover” television show, but on a larger scale, transforming not a single house, but an entire neighborhood.  In 2002, CBA completed renovation of the former St. Joseph’s convent at 517 Moody St. for CBA offices. In 2006 and 2007, CBA invested $14 million in property improvements to the 267-unit North Canal Apartments, including new kitchens and baths, flooring, high-efficiency heating systems, and landscaping and paving. The renovation of St. Joseph’s Apartments was completed in 2008, transforming former classrooms into 15 stunning new apartments. CBA gave the former St. Joseph’s High School on Merrimack a new lease on life in 2010, transforming the historic building into beautiful, affordable Acre High School Apartments for 22 families.

This transformation of the Moody Street corridor over the past two decades is literally rebuilding and giving new life to a neighborhood that had been crumbling and deteriorating. CBA has successfully leveraged more than $80 million in investment since 2002, making the neighborhood attractive, safe and desirable as we created hundreds of good-paying construction jobs for the area.

The Patrick-Murray Administration provided an allocation of $499,000 in federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and $138,000 in federal HOME funds and $1,750,000 in state housing bond funds.

"The Patrick-Murray Administration is committed to investing in affordable housing that transforms neighborhoods in our Gateway Cities and makes the Commonwealth a better place to live and work for Massachusetts residents," said Steve Carvalho, Acting Undersecretary, Department of Housing and Community Development. "I am thrilled to celebrate this latest investment in this revitalization effort in the Acre."

CBA redeveloped the troubled pair of buildings as a 4-story elevator building, incorporating the latest in energy and water-conservation measures, resulting in the production of 23 new units of permanently affordable rental units. Four units have one bedroom; 11 have two bedrooms and eight have three bedrooms, with 16 on-site parking spaces. The property is located on a quiet residential street with ample on-street parking, close to public transportation and within easy walking distance of the city center and numerous amenities. All of the units are available to families earning less than 60% of area median income. Of those, six of the family-sized units are made available as service-enriched permanent housing for extremely low income households transitioning from shelters. CBA obtained eight (8) project based rental vouchers to facilitate deep affordability for these households.

The previous tenements at 476 and 484 Moody Street had passed through numerous ownerships and foreclosures through the years, finally culminating in foreclosure, condemnation, and a place on the City of Lowell’s “Troubled and Abandoned Property List.” Vacant and boarded up for over three years, the buildings were known as a center for illegal activities and a blight on the neighborhood. When the owner went into foreclosure and a new owner assumed the properties through a deed in lieu of foreclosure, CBA seized the opportunity to purchase the properties so that they could finally be placed into responsible hands. CBA acquired the approximately 17,000 square foot parcel in May 2009.

Redeveloping these parcels was part of a comprehensive redevelopment of the Upper Merrimack Neighborhood that CBA, in partnership with private and public funders, has undertaken over the past decade. The subject property is located across the street from CBA’s North Canal Apartments, a 267-unit complex that CBA transformed from “Concrete City” into a model of well-managed large-scale affordable housing. Also across the street is St. Joseph’s Apartments, a project financed primarily with low-income housing and historic tax credits, completed in Fall 2008, and a block away is CBA’s High School Apartments, a project slated to begin construction in 2010. CBA also has its offices in the former convent, adjacent to St. Joseph’s Apartments, renovated with Historic Tax Credits in 2002.

CBA’s long term investment in the neighborhood is paying off, as a private developer has acquired and rehabilitated an adjacent 12-unit property. Likewise, the shuttered Nuestra del Senora Church is under development redevelopment. Further investment is expected once the new University Avenue Bridge opens, redirecting traffic onto Merrimack Street, a block away, providing the primary connection between UMass Lowell and the downtown. Redeveloping the 476-484 Moody Street parcels has helped protect the public investment made in the neighborhood to date, as well as provide much-needed affordable housing for families and individuals.