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WESTFIELD — The Community Preservation Committee met on Jan. 18 to review their funding status and award grants to two applicants, $410,000 to Domus Inc. for veterans housing in the Old Town Hall at 20 Broad St., and $9,200 to Grandmother’s Garden on Smith Avenue for restoration of the historic iron fence.

At the start of the meeting, new Ward 1 Councilor Karen Fanion introduced herself to the committee as the new liaison for the City Council, telling them she would be happy to speak on their behalf at council meetings.

City Planner Jay Vinskey said the current balance of the Community Preservation Act funds is $2.7 million, which includes money already dedicated for projects. He said $1.2 million is currently available, which he added is adequate for the projects coming before them. The new year starts July 1, when more funding will be added to the balance.

Ann Lentini, director of Domus Inc., an affordable housing organization in downtown Westfield, and development consultant Michael Cucchiara requested the initial funding to turn the Old Town Hall into 18 affordable housing units for veterans.

Lentini said she will be working with Veterans Services Director Julie Barnes to find tenants.

“That’s who I will go through. It’s very important that we take care of those who have taken care of us,” she said.

The $410,000, which came out of $575,000 currently available in CPA funds restricted for affordable housing, will allow Domus to purchase the historical building from the First Congregational Church.

Old Town Hall was built in 1837-1838, and served as the community’s seat of government until 1958. In 1920, when Westfield was reincorporated as a city, it became the first City Hall. The building also held the first formally organized Westfield High School classes from 1855 until 1867. After city offices moved to Court Street, the neighboring First Congregational Church purchased the building in 1962.

Cucchiara, who works on projects throughout Massachusetts with the Grantham Group, an affordable housing developer, said the majority of the anticipated $7.5 million for the project will be financed by the state, but they wanted the city to come in first.

“We must show that we have exhausted local resources,” he said.

Cucchiara said he and Domus are looking at every source available, and recently met with MassDevelopment, whom they will be asking for $1 million for the project. He said the state will provide approximately $4.5 million, a portion of which will come from state and federal historical tax credit funding.

Grandmother’s Garden

Allen Steiger, vice president of the Friends of the Grandmother’s Garden, who attended the meeting remotely, said the historic wrought-iron fence that surrounds the property is the original fence that was donated to the garden by the city in 1958. He said he wasn’t sure how old the fence is, but that it probably has another 50 years on it. The request of $9,200 is to clean, sand blast, seal and protect the fence. He said the Friends would pay for any welding or repairs that are needed.

The garden itself dates back to 1934, when it was created in a corner of Chauncey Allen Park, ten acres donated to the city in 1930 by Albert Steiger.

The CPC previously funded the restoration of the rose arbor in Grandmother’s Garden. The volunteer Friends group is responsible for care and maintenance of the garden, which will be celebrating 90 years in 2024, and will be offering a full schedule of events to celebrate that are free and open to the public. Steiger said they are hoping to attract more people and volunteers to the garden in this anniversary year.

Vinskey said since the CPA funds restricted to historical projects has been spent down for the year, the $9,200 will come from the $180,000 in unrestricted funds.

Tekoa Narrows

Vinskey told the committee a state land grant has been awarded in the amount of $56,312 for the Tekoa Narrows Conservation Area, a 17-acre tract along Route 20 on the Westfield River that borders MassWildlife conservation land and city-owned property.

The grant award states that conservation of the property will secure rare wildlife habitat along a river corridor, and will establish public access to the Westfield River for canoeing, kayaking and fishing from a very accessible location.

Vinskey said the city does not yet own the land, but it has a purchase and sale agreement on it, and will close on it before June. He said a survey and environmental investigation are in process, which could not be initiated until the grant award was made.

Vinskey said he is also going to initiate talks with the owner of a 32-acre tract behind Main and Meadow streets, currently used to grow corn, for a potential open space purchase. He said the landowner was previously amenable to selling it, but those conversations would need to restart once city departments are on board with the concept.

“The area is mostly floodplain, so it is difficult to build anything there. I envision it as a good location for community gardens, but would need to gauge interest in that. It should be able to accommodate play fields as well,” Vinskey said.

amyporter@thewestfieldnews.com | + posts