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Building homes again: Campanelli teams with Thorndike in return to its residential roots

Posted on May 17, 2017

30,000 starter homes. In the suburbs. Built by the sons of Italian immigrants.

That’s what Nick, Joseph, Michael and Alfred Campanelli of Brockton did after World War II and that’s why it’s fitting that their company has returned to its roots, just when Massachusetts needs more housing.

The model this time is not the “Campanelli” slab ranch that sold for $13,700 with special financing for military veterans, but apartments for workers, downsizing baby boomers and families who need an affordable place and a fresh start.

Campanelli-Thorndike developments in Norwood and Norton received Project Eligibility Letters and long-term financing from MHP. 

It’s easy to understand why Campanelli Construction & Development has returned to its roots. After the brothers built the company on starter homes and shopping malls, the second and third generations expanded into manufacturing plants, office buildings, and cold storage facilities. When the foreclosure crisis eased in 2010, Campanelli saw its chance. “We wanted to get into multifamily housing,” said Dan DeMarco, a third-generation Campanelli and a partner in the company with his brothers Jeff and Robert. “We knew there would be a need for it.”

Campanelli teamed up with Lloyd Geisinger and Thorndike Development of Natick, a developer of market-rate condos. First, they received a Ch. 40B permit from the Town of Norwood and developed part of the former Polaroid campus into 263 mixed-income apartments.  Then they received a Ch. 40B permit from the Town of Norton and built 188 apartments. Both received project eligibility letters and long-term financing from MHP.

In Norwood, One Upland Apartments’ proximity to Route. 128 and three rail stations has drawn young professionals and empty nesters. Residents use the tree-lined trails to exercise and walk their dogs. DeMarco says the housing also helped his company attract Moderna Therapeutics, which is building a new plant for 200 scientists on another part of the campus.

The 197 market-rate apartments are almost leased up and the 66 affordable apartments went fast as 264 families applied for the lottery. One of those winners was Katrina Thompson and her two-year odyssey through six towns and two states says a lot about why we need more housing.

Thompson’s tale is not uncommon. She found herself raising her son Cesar by herself and ended up homeless. With Boston’s shelters full, she and Cesar were sent by taxi to a motel in the southern part of the state, where she says drug use and parties by neighbors were constant and sleep was something you attempted.

Another motel and two shelters later, she realized she had to do something. She decided to go to Maine, where she obtained a Section 8 housing assistance and found an apartment near U-Maine Orono.

Her life settled down. Cesar stayed in one school and made friends. Katrina found a job in a laundromat while keeping an eye out for an apartment back in Boston. One day, she saw the lottery for One Upland. She applied. Three months later, the phone rang. She was coming home.

Given their journey, it’s understandable why Cesar cried when he first saw their new apartment. He can walk to school. He plays trombone in two bands. With a stable home, Katrina can look for a job. She worked at UPS during Christmas and is now applying for full-time work.   

“They should build more places like this,” she said. “It gives people a chance to live in a safe place where their children can go to good schools.”

Opportunity. It’s what Campanelli has built.  For generations.