The Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC) awarded Way Finders funding for two affordable housing developments: The Plaza Apartments in South Hadley and The Essex in Holyoke. The award was announced by Governor Healey on Jan. 22.
The Plaza Apartments (South Hadley)
The Plaza Apartments will bring 60 mixed-income residences to the three-acre site that was formerly part of the Woodlawn Shopping Plaza in South Hadley (by the intersection of routes 33 and 116). The four-story apartment building will be developed by Way Finders in partnership with South Hadley Plaza LLC., co-owned by Rocco Falcone, president of Rocky’s Ace Hardware; Peter Picknelly, CEO of Peter Pan Bus Lines; and The Bean Restaurant Group.
“We appreciate the State’s support,” said Way Finders President and CEO Keith Fairey. “This is a big step toward providing much needed affording housing in the region.”
The Plaza Apartments are in the Newton Street Smart Growth District, where the town of South Hadley is focused on creating new housing with access to jobs, retail, and transit. A new senior center is also less than a quarter mile away.
“South Hadley is taking affordable housing seriously, including in our recently approved Housing Production Plan,” said South Hadley Town Administrator Lisa Wong. “The town recognizes how affordable housing is integral to its economic success.”
The L-shaped building will be oriented around a central courtyard, and include one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. Five units will be accessible for people with physical disabilities and two will be equipped for people with sensory impairments. There will also be three units reserved for clients of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.
“The building will offer important amenities and a full community experience,” said co- developer Rocco Falcone. “These include laundry, Way Finders property management, 24-hour maintenance, and resident services. A community room with a kitchenette will also be available. The courtyard will have tables, benches, and bicycle racks. Lastly, there will be both on-site and off-street parking for 75 vehicles.”
Construction of The Plaza Apartments is slated to start in fall 2024 and will take approximately 16 months to complete.
The Essex (Holyoke)
The Essex is Way Finders’ latest effort to transform and reshape the Chestnut-Essex Street corridor, located at Appleton Street (#344), Chestnut Street (#188-190, 213-215), and Elm Street (#207).
Comprised of four sites and offering 41 affordable rental units, The Essex will encircle Way Finders’ first focal point—Library Commons, completed in 2021 and featuring 38 affordable units. The Essex will follow the same approach—the building of new, the rehabbing of old— through the construction of three townhome-style buildings and the renovation of a circa 1888 structure, set to begin by the end of 2024.
Located a block from the restored Holyoke Public Library and within walking distance of Lawernce Elementary School, The Essex is also near stores, community facilities, and employment opportunities and will feature a property management office and resident services. Three units will be accessible for people with physical disabilities; one will be equipped for people with sensory impairments.
In addition to this most recent State funding, The Essex is supported by the City of Holyoke and MassDevelopment’s Underutilized Properties Program (UPP).
“Library Commons already contributes to the renaissance of downtown Holyoke,” said Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia. “It provides access to employment, education, and entertainment opportunities, as well as to downtown’s burgeoning cultural scene. The Essex will, literally, build on that success.”
Green & Sustainable
Both developments are consistent with Enterprise Green Communities and ENERGY STAR standards, as the work of Way Finders is closely aligned with the Commonwealth’s drive to lead the nation in green practices—including clean energy standards and efficiencies.
About Way Finders
Way Finders is a nonprofit community development corporation, headquartered in Springfield, MA, working to strengthen housing stability and economic mobility and build thriving neighborhoods throughout western Massachusetts. Way Finders has created more than 800 units of permanently affordable housing in Hampden and Hampshire counties, and offers first time homebuyer classes, resident leadership training, homeless family shelters, and much more. Learn more at www.wayfinders.org.