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Fairfax Gardens Project Gets $14.4 Million Bond Boost for Taunton Development

February 11, 2013 : Taunton Daily Gazette, by Charles Winokoor

TAUNTON – The Fairfax Gardens public housing redevelopment project has received a financial boost that should ensure its completion.

Finance agency MassDevelopment this week announced it issued a $14.4 million tax-exempt bond on behalf of Taunton Housing Authority and Taunton Four Limited Partnership.

“It’s a really big piece, all the funding pieces are in place now,” said Colleen Doherty, Taunton Housing Authority executive director.

Proceeds from the sale of the bond will go toward building a 72-unit apartment/townhouse rental community on the site known as Parcel 6A-2 – a contaminated brownfield site ringed by Mason and Oak streets, and located behind the GATRA bus terminal.

The formerly drug-plagued and deteriorated Fairfax Gardens housing project on DeWert Avenue has been demolished. The plan is to construct 88 new townhouse units there.

A total of 160 housing units at both locations will replace what had been 150 apartments on DeWert Avenue.

Boston-based Trinity Financial has partnered with the city's THA and MassDevelopment to implement the $70 million project.

The city got the green light last year to pursue the project after qualifying for a $22 million Hope VI grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Trinity Financial, which has a track record of similar redevelopment projects in the state, has agreed to fund at least $46 million of the project.

Bank of America purchased the $14.4 million bond and in turn is selling tax credits to Royal Bank of Canada, described as the “tax credit syndicator.”

“Everyone worked collectively,” said Matt Zahler, Trinity’s project manager for the HOPE VI project.

He praised both the THA and its more than two dozen local “partners” and “stakeholders” – including Pro-Home, Triumph Inc., Morton Hospital and Citizens for Citizens.

“For a long time this was a problem with no solution, but now we can see there’s finally a real solution, and it’s exciting,” said Michael Mattos, THA’s director of real estate development.

Taunton area-based non-profits, such as Pro-Home, represent the “social service side” of the project, Mattos said.

He also noted that the THA was able to leverage HUD’s HOPE VI funding to attract the talents of both Trinity and MassDevelopment – the latter of which also formed a partnership with Taunton Development Corporation (TDC).

MassDevelopment and TDC have since purchased more than 200 acres of former Paul A. Dever School property for Myles Standish Industrial Park, which will include a new life-science training center/campus.

In addition to the 160 rental units, the project calls for the eventual issuance of 30 “soft second” loans for lower income, first-time home buyers.

If a qualifying buyer remains in a home for at least 10 years, the loan, which can range as high as $20,000, will be forgiven, Mattos said.

“It’s essentially a second mortgage,” Mattos said.

© Copyright 2013 Taunton Daily Gazette.