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City of Salem to undertake major revitalization effort in Point Neighborhood

Posted by Ryan Mooney  July 25, 2012 12:32 PM

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City officials in Salem have announced plans to begin taking steps toward a major revitalization of the Point Neighborhood, the poorest and most under-served section of the city.

According to a press release from the office of Mayor Kim Driscoll, city officials - with the support of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and North Shore Community Development Coalition (CDC) - will be working closely with the community over the next year to "develop a vision and action plan for the Point Neighborhood."

"The Point Neighborhood has tremendous assets. The planning process presents a great opportunity for residents, business owners, and others to actively participate in creating a common vision to strengthen the neighborhood," Driscoll said in a statement.

The project, described as a "landmark collaboration among, city, regional, nonprofit, and grassroots stakeholders" by the MAPC, aims to identify feasible revitalization action that can be taken in the next three to five years using funding from the federal Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant, which was awarded to the City of Salem by the Metro Boston Consortium for Sustainable Communities.

The announcement comes on the heels of $67,150 Brownfields Grant awarded to the North Shore CDC by MassDevelopment.

The North Shore CDC owns 77 units of affordable housing in 23 buildings at the Point. According to Mickey Northcutt, executive director of the North Shore CDC, the group is actively working to secure funding for the renovation of 11 buildings in the neighborhood over the next two years.

"We're planning a full-scale renovation of these 11 buildings," Nortchutt said in a phone interview. "We're planning broad work, roof repairs, new windows and some unit renovation throughout all 11 buildings."

The Brownfields Grant will be used to conduct mandatory soil testing around the buildings, but Northcutt does not expect much, if any, remediation to be necessary. But the testing is a necessary step.

Most soil contaminants found in the area are a result of the Great Salem Fire of 1914, which all but wiped out the entire neighborhood.

"We've owned these buildings for 20 years and have operated them as affordable housing," Northcutt said. "In order to preserve their affordability we need to do a full-scale recapitalization, which will require refinancing all of the debt and raising a lot of resources to do the renovations - several million dollars of renovations - and that will make them last another 20 years."

The North Shore CDC is in the process of applying for a tax-exempt bond through MassDevelopment, a state historic tax credit, and federal home funds through the North Shore Home Consortium.

As part of the city's initiative, project partners will host a number of neighborhood-wide public meetings over the next year to engage residents and leaders in discussion on topics such as infrastructure, municipal services, public safety, housing, and youth development.

"We're thrilled to work with Salem, the North Shore CDC - and especially the people who live and work in the Point - to develop a vision for the future of this great neighborhood, and concrete steps to achieve that vision," Marc Draisen, executive director of MAPC said in a statement.

For more information about the project, visit http://mapc.org/salempointvision.

Ryan Mooney can be reached at globe.mooney@yahoo.com.

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