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MHP takes part in grand opening of Cambridge's Neville Place

Posted on November 29, 2001

CAMBRIDGE --- You could say this deal was perfect for the Mass. Housing Partnership Fund. An array of advocates and residents watched the planning process. A seemingly equal number of sources were needed to finance the project. There were so many seats at the table, the developer could've used two tables.

In the end, all parties worked through the complications and Neville Manor of Fresh Pond got done. On Nov. 29, 2001, everyone got together to celebrate the opening of the sparkling 71-unit affordable assisted living facility within view of Fresh Pond.

MHP provided $3.4M in permanent financing to the project. According to the project's developer, David Ennis, President of Affirmative Investments, MHP provided more than money.

"MHP lends money in a tremendously creative way," he said. "They work hard to understand what you're trying to do."

In this deal, what the developer, the city and health and housing advocates were trying to do was to renovate a historic nursing home property that has served Cambridge residents since the 1800s, when it was the site of a home for Civil War veterans. That tradition continued in the 1920s when the Cambridge Home for the Aged was opened. In the mid-1970s, it was renamed the Mayor Michael J. Neville Manor. By the early 1990s, the nursing home was losing the city money and was in need of repair.

So a consortium was formed to figure out how to transform Neville into what it is today a newly renovated historic building with photographs of old Cambridge on the walls. Of the 71 units, 13 are in aseparate Alzheimer's section. Overall, four of the units are set aside for elderly below 40 percent of median, 14 are set aside for households below 50 percent of median, 21 are for below 60 percent of median, and 18 are for below 80 percent of median. All told, 57 of the units will be affordable.

"For the city of Cambridge, this project represents the most innovative coming together of interest groups from around the city," said David Rockwell, Deputy Director of Lending for MHP. "Affordable housing, historic preservation, open space and elderly advocates all got on the same page to make this happen."

"As our population ages, there is a strong and growing demand for the benefits assisted living has to offer," said Daniel J. Wuenschel, Executive Director of the Cambridge Housing Authority. "Now residents of Cambridge have an affordable option to help them stay in the community they love."

Neville Place was financed through a combination of loans, grants and equity capital from a variety of private and public sources. East Cambridge Savings Bank provided construction financing of $3.4 million and the MHP Fund provided permanent financing of $3.4 million. National Equity Fund, Inc. (NEF, Inc.)purchased housing and historic tax credits for $6.3 million in equity capital on behalf of lead investor MetLife, which provided $3 million to fund the project, and other NEF, Inc. investors, including Freddie Mac, J.P.Morgan Chase, World Book, Wells Fargo, Fifth Third Bank, Charter One Bank and Beneficial MutualSavings. A variety of additional loans included $675,000 from the City of Cambridge, a $500,000 HOME loan from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Urban Development Assistance Corporation, a $750,000 loan from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and a $250,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston through East Cambridge Savings Bank.

Thanks to a 1990 law, MHP uses mandatory credit lines from banks doing business in the state to provide long-term loans at low rates for affordable housing. Since 1990, MHP has put nearly $20M into Cambridge,helping to create over 500 units of affordable housing.

"We love coming to Cambridge," said MHP's Deputy Director of Lending and General Counsel Judy Jacobson at the Nov. 29 grand opening. "You just don't talk, you do."

For more information about MHP's financing programs, call (617) 338-7868.