By Bethany Bray
HAMILTON ” Yesterday’s warm, summerlike weather mirrored the cheerful atmosphere at the afternoon unveiling of Firehouse Place, a newly refurbished affordable-housing project at 69 Willow St.
The building is now home to four one-bedroom apartments and an updated space for the Acord Food Pantry.
The project, an undertaking of the Beverly-based Harborlight Community Partners, is the first affordable-housing project in Hamilton built with Community Preservation Act funds.
From left, Lori Morency, Lorraine Pesce, Shirley Flynn and Dick Flynn listen to Linda Pierce, assistant site manager for Harborlight Community Partners, answer questions while leading a tour of one of the apartments in Firehouse Place. Just opened, Firehouse Place is a new housing project in Hamilton with a nonprofit food pantry on the first floor and several affordable apartments. – Ken Yuszkus
Occupants of the four rental apartments will be fully moved in by Dec. 1, said Andrew DeFranza, Harborlight’s executive director.
Acord Food Pantry will move back into 69 Willow St. on Nov. 30, said Deby Baker, Acord’s managing director.
The pantry, which serves roughly 350 households from Hamilton, Wenham, Ipswich, Topsfield, Essex and Manchester-by-the-Sea each week, has relocated to the former library building in Hamilton through the renovation project.
Yesterday, Baker said she was on cloud nine as she watched people tour the new building.
“We are so excited to have a new space. It’s been a long time coming,” she said. “Our (number of) clients are growing every week. We’re just so thankful. … We wouldn’t be here without (support from) the community.”
A small crowd gathered at the corner of Willow Street and Railroad Avenue yesterday as Hamilton selectmen, town officials and Acord board members cut two large red ribbons ” one on the front door and one on a side door, leading to the food pantry space.
The project’s name, Firehouse Place, pays homage to the building’s use as a fire station from 1916 to 1957. The building footprint remained the same through the renovation project.
DeFranza said Harborlight received more than 90 requests from people interested in living at Firehouse Place. After a lottery process, two units have been rented and candidates are being screened for the remaining apartments, he said yesterday.
“We’re delighted with the precedent (of using CPA funds) and the partnership with the town,” DeFranza said.
Discussion of the project began in 2008, when owners of 69 Willow St. began looking to sell. Concerned about having to relocate, Acord leaders met with DeFranza.
Harborlight, a nonprofit, has developed several North Shore low-income and elderly housing projects, including in Beverly and Ipswich.
Ground was broken on the project in June. The contractor for the renovation was Martins Construction Co., whose vice president is Molly Martins, chairwoman of the Wenham Board of Selectmen.
Staff writer Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.
FOOD DRIVE SATURDAY
On Saturday, Hamilton and Wenham police officers, firefighters and dispatchers will collect donations of nonperishable food items in their annual drive for the Acord Food Pantry. Residents of Hamilton and Wenham are encouraged to put donations in their recycling bins and set them out to the curb by 9 a.m.
Acord Food Pantry is open twice a week and distributes food to residents of Hamilton, Wenham, Ipswich, Topsfield, Essex and Manchester-by-the-Sea. For more information, call 978-468-7424 or visit www.acordfoodpantry.org.