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MassDevelopment awards grant to revitalize downtown Fitchburg

May 7, 2022 : Sentinel & Enterprise, by Shane Rhodes

FITCHBURG — MassDevelopment recently awarded a $315,175 grant to Prime Real Estate Investment LLC to revitalize a three-story building downtown.

Awarded through MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative Equity Investment program, Prime Real Estate Investment will use the funds to redevelop the vacant building at 759-769 Main St. Built in 1945, the building has been vacant for more than a year; it was most recently occupied by an insurance company.

The $315,175 grant will allow Prime Real Estate Investment managing members Manuel Joaquin and Rosario Nicotra to build out a ground-floor commercial space and add four market-rate apartments on the building’s upper floors.

“This project is another step towards a transformative revitalization of the City of Fitchburg,” Nicotra and Joaquin said, in a press release. “We are proud to be a partner in saving these significant buildings, and are thankful for the supportive collaboration with MassDevelopment, the Mayor’s Office, the Planning Board, and the Transformative Development Initiative, HDIP programs, and everyone on our team.”

The Transformative Development Initiative works with cross-sector partnerships in targeted commercial districts in Gateway Cities — small to mid-sized cities that “anchor regional economies around the state, with below state average household incomes and educational attainment rates” — to engage community members, implement local economic development initiatives and spur further public and private investment. It has provided Fitchburg, one of the state’s 26 Gateway Cities, with about $3 million in project financing since it was designated a Transformative Development Initiative district in 2018.

Mayor Stephen DiNatale thanked MassDevelopment for its “critical” support as Fitchburg oversees continued construction and development downtown.

“The City of Fitchburg has been aggressively supporting housing production in our downtown, and is pleased to see MassDevelopment support this critical project in Fitchburg’s TDI district,” DiNatale said. “This is one of many projects currently under construction downtown, which also has over 350 units working through the predevelopment process.”

“Redeveloping underutilized buildings plays a crucial role in activating our Main Street, and these projects couldn’t happen without our partners at MassDevelopment,” he said.

Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, who is also a member of the MassDevelopment Board of Directors, shared DiNatale’s excitement in the construction effort and over MassDevelopment’s role in “reinvigorating downtowns and commercial centers in the Commonwealth’s Gateway Cities.”

“As part of (the TDI Equity Investment) program, MassDevelopment can award targeted grants to boost developments like this that have the ability to spur significant economic growth within a neighborhood,” he said.

MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera also said he was “pleased” to help Joaquin and Nicotra transform and develop the property.

“Activating this vacant building will eliminate blight, increase foot traffic in the area, and complement our other recent investments aimed at revitalizing downtown Fitchburg,” Rivera said.