Article published by the Providence Journal on Tuesday, October 30, 2018.

$22-million affordable housing project at 60 King St. is completed with 60 units

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Between 1958 and 1988, hundreds of employees worked at the Imperial Knife Factory in Olneyville, manufacturing folding pocket knives, stainless steel cutlery and tableware.

Today, that same mill building boasts 60 new apartments for families of varying income levels.

“In the coming weeks, 60 families will come home to a beautiful apartment here,” said Dan Drazen, project manager for Trinity Financial, the developer of the $22-million affordable housing project at 60 King St., where politicians and housing officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday.

Forty-seven of the 60 units will be rented to families earning 60 percent of the area median income, which is up to $43,400 for a family of three. Seven will be rented to families earning 30 percent of the area median income, or up to $21,700 for a family of three. The remaining six units will be priced at market-rate levels, and there are five Section 8 vouchers available for the building. Section 8 is a federally-funded program that subsidizes housing for qualifying tenants.

The first 15 families are scheduled to move in on Thursday, according to Reza Aghamirzadeh, head of community development at Citizens Bank, a key investor in the project.

Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony was one in a string of recent ribbon cuttings at housing complexes around the state.

Last Friday, Rhode Island Housing, the state’s housing finance agency, announced the completion of renovations for 128 affordable apartments in Providence. On Monday, the agency cut the ribbon at the Branch Blackstone Development, a group of 46 rental homes for low- and moderate-income families in Pawtucket and Central Falls.

On Thursday, Rhode Island Housing will announce the completion of 96 affordable housing units in the Pascoag neighborhood of Burrillville.

But the development at 60 King St. represents not only the addition of 60 apartments to Providence, but the ongoing transformation of one of the capital city’s most rapidly-changing neighborhoods.

In recent years, Olneyville has seen many of its abandoned mills refurbished and repurposed into apartments and artists’ lofts as well as the construction of parks, a bike path and green space along the Woonasquatucket River.

“This transformation that you’re seeing here today is part of a 20-year effort,” said Barbara Fields, executive director of Rhode Island Housing. “Today we have a reclaimed river, a park where children play and do summer programming and grow food in the garden, rental housing, home ownership, senior housing, and today we add yet another piece — 60 King St.”

In the process of improving the neighborhood, Jennifer Hawkins, executive director of ONE Neighborhood Builders, the agency that originally purchased the land at 60 King St. for development, said it’s important to make sure residents aren’t pushed out of the community.

“We really want to do it in such a way that the existing residents and existing businesses can stay here and flourish and not get kicked out,” she said.

ONE Neighborhood Builders does this by placing properties into the state’s Community Housing Land Trust, which ensures they remain affordable in perpetuity, Hawkins said. Also, when there are opportunities to lease ground floors of residential buildings for commercial use, Hawkins said her agency tries to find local businesses or nonprofits to rent to.

ONE Neighborhood Builders also has site control of land across the street from 60 King St., where Hawkins said her team is looking to develop King Street Commons, a project that will include 30 additional affordable units as well as four Head Start classrooms. Head Start is a federally-funded early education program for children of low-income families.

“We really believe that a comprehensive response to community development is the best way of going about it,” she said. ”…the success of Providence and the success of Rhode Island are inextricably linked to the success of its neighborhoods.”


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