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State finances assisted living complex for Belchertown State School site

August 16, 2016 : The Republican, by Jim Kinney

BELCHERTOWN — The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development has provided $2.45 million in conditional low-income housing federal tax credits and Department of Housing and Community Development subsidies for an 83-unit assisted living center to be built at the site of the former Belchertown State School.

MassDevelopment, the state's finance and development agency, announced the funding Tuesday. The tax credits are conditional  upon the developer getting the rest of its financing in place, according to MassDevelopment.

The Grantham Group, LLC, of Boston, is building the 15 million facility on the 17.2-acre Pad 1 parcel on the sprawling site. Called Carriage Grove, the development will include 40 affordable units and will support 65 construction jobs and create 40 permanent positions, MassDevelopment said.

"Affordable housing production serves as a catalyst for broad-based neighborhood revitalization efforts," Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash said in a news release. "By connecting working families and at-risk populations to stable, affordable housing, we will ensure that Massachusetts remains a place where people succeed, and businesses flourish."

Freelance photographer Matt Hester shares photos from a trip inside the abandoned Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded in Belchertown, Massachusetts.

Belchertown Selectman Ronald Aponte said, "This is great news for the Town of Belchertown as we take another significant step forward in remediating the former State School site while increasing the business tax base for the town. The Board of Selectmen would like to thank our valued partners at MassDevelopment and the Belchertown EDIC for their continued hard work and advocacy for the development of the former State School site. Additionally, we look forward to working with the Grantham Group as they begin construction on this much-anticipated project."

Town Meeting in 2015 and 2016 approved appropriating $250,000 from the Belchertown Community Preservation Act Affordable Housing Reserve toward the project.

Originally called the Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded, the 876-acre facility opened in 1922 to house people with developmental disabilities and other illnesses. It closed in 1992.

In 2014, then-Gov. Deval Patrick ordered the release of $4 million in bond funds toward cleanup at the former State School campus. The work continued under Gov. Charlie Baker and included prepping Pad 1 for redevelopment.

In July, fire ripped through a building elsewhere at the site. Investigators later  said the fire was likely an arson.

During 2015, MassDevelopment financed or managed 294 projects generating investment of more than $2.5 billion in the Massachusetts economy, according to a state news release. The projects are projected to create about 6,100 jobs and build or rehabilitate about 2,000 residential units.

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