FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WOONSOCKET, RI, January 3, 2024 – NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, together with federal, state, and local officials as well as funding and community partners, broke ground today on Millrace, a substantial rehabilitation of three historic mill buildings into affordable homes and 23,000 square feet of commercial/community space in the heart of downtown Woonsocket, RI.
Located at 15 Island Place and 68 S. Main Street Woonsocket, RI, Millrace will soon become home to 70 individuals and families making between 30 and 100 percent of the HUD area median income. The Project will consist of 6 studios, 57 one bedroom, and 7 two bedroom apartments. Rents will range between $749 and $1,350.
Millrace is made possible with the support of our federal, state and local delegation, including community project funding sponsored by Senator Reed.
“Thanks to Democrats’ American Rescue Plan, we are increasing access to safe and affordable housing for Rhode Islanders,” said Senator Whitehouse. “With an extra boost from Senator Reed, the Millrace development will provide new homes for 70 families and lift up the economy in historic downtown Woonsocket.”
Last year, Governor Dan McKee and Rhode Island Housing announced $80 million in investments to preserve and create more than 800 affordable housing units in the State, including Millrace.
“Over the last two years, Rhode Island has gone all in on housing in a way we haven’t seen before,” said Governor Dan McKee. “With support from our Congressional Delegation and the General Assembly, our Administration made the single largest investment in housing to support important developments like Millrace here in Woonsocket. Thanks to the work of NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley and local leaders, this new development will not only provide a space for families to call home, but a place that gives them the stability they need to chart a bright future right here in Rhode Island.”
Thanks to CDBG funding from the RI Department of Housing, each of the 70 units will be wired with high speed internet by OSHEAN, a non-profit coalition of non-profit organizations dedicated to providing innovative Internet-based technology solutions for its member institutions and the communities they serve. With this investment, Millrace residents will have free access to the internet.
“As we deal with a housing crisis affecting communities across the state, developments like Millrace are important,” said Carol Ventura, CEO of RIHousing. “Not only is new housing being added, but historical buildings are being preserved and repurposed. RIHousing is proud to continue to support preservation projects that provide affordable housing options for Rhode Islanders.”
Located in the Island Place Historic District, these mills were once home to the Woonsocket Rubber Company/Falls Yarn Mill, and Island Machine Co.. Built between 1857 and 1919, the mills served as critical economic drivers for the community, producing rubber and textiles, and serving as a carriage repair, blacksmith shop, and metal-working site until the buildings were converted to artist studios in the 1990s.
“We are so excited to see this project get started,” said Secretary of Housing Stefan Pryor. “This is an excellent example of adaptive reuse, showing how vacant buildings can be remade into housing for our state. We encourage communities to bring forth more innovative developments along these lines: advancing affordability and neighborhood revitalization simultaneously.”
As with many historic buildings, substantial environmental remediation was necessary to transform these factories into safe, healthy places for individuals to call home. This was made possible through brownfield clean up support from the RI DEM and the EPA.
“The successful remediation of the Millrace District development is yet another example of the value of Rhode Island’s continued investment in the cleanup of brownfield sites to create jobs, spur economic growth, and promote healthy communities throughout our state,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “DEM is proud to have supported the redevelopment of Woonsocket’s latest community asset through the Brownfields Remediation and Economic Development Fund.”
Director Gray’s remarks were followed by Dr. David Cash of the EPA. Dr. Cash provided a particularly memorable moment when he emphasized that EPA grants are an 8 to 1 return on investment by trading David Cicilline, President of the RI Foundation and former Congressman, $8 for his $1. Mr. Cicilline assured the room that the $7 gain would go right to the RI Foundation. Dr. Cash noted that in the case of Millrace, the EPA’s $800,000 investment far surpassed its typical return.
With over $34 million in development expenses, NWBRV is grateful to the 16 permanent financing sources that came together to make this project possible, including: National Equity Fund through Federal Housing & Historic Tax Credits, Citizens Bank of Rhode Island with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, RIHousing, the RI Department of Housing, RI Housing Resource Commission, and community project funding from Senator Reed.
Having acquired the properties in 2013 and 2016, this Millrace Groundbreaking is over a decade in the making. As such, NWBRV is particularly grateful to our partners who provide the critical pre-development funding that bring projects to where we are today, including Community Housing Capital.
“We are delighted to witness the groundbreaking of the Millrace project and see NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, succeed in bringing new affordable housing units to Woonsocket. For Community Housing Capital, this project has been a testament to the transformative power of patient capital” shares Alvin Saafir, Senior Vice President for Community Housing Capital
Other pre-development partners include: the Providence Revolving Fund, Rhode Island Foundation Impact Loan, RI Housing, LISC Rhode Island, TD Bank, and ongoing support from our network leader, NeighborWorks America, a congressionally chartered nonprofit organization that supports community development in the United States.
“The Millrace re-development will bring new housing and economic vitality to Woonsocket. It takes organizations like NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley that are committed and skilled to bring complex projects like this to fruition and turn a communities’ storied past into its bright future,” said Joanie Straussman Brandon, Northeast Regional Vice President of NeighborWorks America.
Also in attendance were State Senator Melissa Murray, State Representative Steve Casey, City Councilors Valerie Gonzalez, Garrett Mancieri, Scott McGee, representatives from the City of Woonsocket including Planning Director Mick Debroisse, members of the NWBRV staff and board, and many members of the Woonsocket community .
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About NeighborWorks Blackstone
NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley (NWBRV) – Formerly the Woonsocket Neighborhood Development Corporation – is a nonprofit community development corporation that has worked with residents, businesses, partners, and communities since 1987 to enrich neighborhood life and make affordable housing opportunities available throughout Northern Rhode Island.
Learn more at www.neighborworksbrv.org
CONTACT: Meg Rego, Director Resource Development & Communications at email@example.com or 401-762-0993 x234.