Shirley Commons Senior Housing Moves Forward Thanks to Support from Baker-Polito Administration

September 13, 2018


Kelsey Schiller, MassDevelopment, 617-330-2011 & 617-694-9695 (cell)

Loni Willey, Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development, 617-273-2481

Architectural rendering of Shirley Commons courtesy of  Dietz & Company Architects, Inc.
Architectural rendering of Shirley Commons courtesy of Dietz & Company Architects, Inc.

Shirley Commons, a proposed senior housing development in Devens, will move forward with construction after receiving a rental housing award from the Baker-Polito Administration. The Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development, a nonprofit affordable housing developer based in Boston and Hartford, has proposed building 58 units of affordable housing for seniors in the Shirley Village Growth District on Hospital Road. Forty-three of these units will be rented to households earning no more than 60 percent of area median income, while the remaining 15 units will be reserved for households earning no more than 30 percent of area median income. The Department of Housing and Community Development will support Shirley Commons with Low Income Housing Tax Credits and subsidy funds. Construction is expected to begin in spring 2019.

“Governor Baker and I are pleased to support the development of Shirley Commons through subsidies, housing tax credits, and a 2016 MassWorks Infrastructure Grant Program award to the Town of Shirley,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “Shirley Commons will benefit seniors by providing new, quality, affordable housing with supportive services, enabling residents to age in their community, and it will also contribute to the ongoing redevelopment of Devens.”

“I am deeply appreciative of the Baker-Polito administration, DHCD Undersecretary Janelle Chan, and MassDevelopment for their support for Shirley Commons, providing rental housing for seniors who have raised their children throughout the Nashoba Valley region, and have given back to their community, but often are struggling to survive on their Social Security and modest savings,” said Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). “Shirley Commons also provides the opportunity for seniors to live in a community close to amenities such as the Shirley town offices and the commuter rail, which will ensure that they can continue to lead full, independent lives. The state's financial support is a perfect example of the value of the Affordable Housing Bond bill, which I was proud to vote for this legislative session."

"With a large and growing elderly population in this part of the state, there is a severe lack of affordable senior housing in the area," said Representative Jennifer Benson, who represents the 37th Middlesex District, which includes Devens. "I appreciate that MassDevelopment and the Women's Institute are working to provide more housing options for seniors in my district, and I look forward to construction of Shirley Commons."

“The Women’s Institute is deeply appreciative of the Commonwealth’s commitment to this project that will provide affordable, quality homes for seniors in need,” said Loni Willey, Women’s Institute Interim Executive Director.  “We have been privileged to work with representatives from the Towns of Ayer, Harvard, and Shirley, as well as with leaders of MassDevelopment and the Devens Enterprise Commission, to create the vision for Shirley Commons, and look forward to launching construction early next year.”

Located in north-central Massachusetts and managed by MassDevelopment, Devens is home to nearly 300 residents and a varied mix of businesses, government organizations, and nonprofits that employ nearly 5,000 people. The proposed Shirley Commons development was made possible by a June 8, 2015 zoning change – supported by the Towns of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley – that allows for the construction of up to 120 units of senior housing in the Shirley Village Growth District.

“With the support of the surrounding communities, the rezoning effort three years ago helped create space for Shirley Commons. Thanks to the allocation of rental housing tax credits from the Baker-Polito Administration, this important affordable housing project can move forward,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss. “Shirley Commons represents the latest milestone in our mission to redevelop Devens into a full-fledged community, complete with growing residential neighborhoods and thriving businesses, and it wouldn’t be possible without the support of our partners at the state and local levels.”

In 2016, Shirley was awarded a $725,000 MassWorks grant to make necessary repairs to the Main Street Bridge over Catacunemaug Brook, ensuring the continuity of roadway connections between the Town’s public safety buildings and the surrounding community. The Town of Shirley provided $82,700 in matching funds to support the public infrastructure project, which addressed critical public safety needs for the Town, like faster response times from the Shirley fire and ambulance station and the police station, located on opposite sides of the bridge from one another. The bridge repair also improved regional access, most notably to Shirley Commons, the MBTA commuter rail station, and the Massachusetts Correctional Institution–Shirley.

MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. During FY2017, MassDevelopment financed or managed 377 projects generating investment of more than $4.3 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are projected to create about 9,488 jobs and build or rehabilitate 1,863 residential units.