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Gateway North will lead to a transformed neighborhood in Lynn

LHAND Executive Director Charles Gaeta, left, shakes hands with Gov. Charlie Baker at Gateway North. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — The completion of Gateway North, a $31 million, 71-unit mixed-income and mixed-use development on Washington Street, celebrated on Tuesday by city and state officials, provides a different kind of affordable housing option for working families.

Gov. Charlie Baker joined elected officials, along with stakeholders and partners on the housing development at 700 Washington St., for a ribbon cutting to mark the opening of Gateway North, a project 10 years in the making.

The development of Gateway North advances the Baker administration’s commitment to build 1,000 workforce housing units through MassHousing’s $100 million Workforce Housing Initiative.

The fund supports the creation of rental housing that is affordable for working families whose incomes are too high for subsidized housing, but are priced out of market rents.

Gateway North, across the street from North Shore Community College in the Sagamore Hill neighborhood, is the first workforce housing development through that initiative.

Ten of the apartments are for moderate income households, classified as workforce housing units, 53 are traditional affordable housing units and eight are market-rate units.

“This was the first project that came out of the chute from MassHousing’s workforce housing fund,” said Baker. “This is a perfect example of the kind of project that initiative was supposed to support. It’s a terrific mixed income property that’s going to have a huge impact along this whole corridor here.”

Baker said the project is a great way to kick off the notion that officials should be in the business of providing affordable housing, but also providing affordable housing for working people.

“This is a great project,” he said. “It’s a terrific statement for the city and it’s a terrific statement for this particular approach to housing development and neighborhood development and we are very excited about it.”

Gateway North features a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units with ground-floor commercial space.

Neighborhood Development Associates, Inc., the development arm of Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development (LHAND), partnered with Boston-based Hub Holdings LLC to buy the property, formerly a vacant Washington Street lot, in 2015 for $600,000. Gateway received $5 million in funding through a competitive state process to make the project possible.

“The Gateway North residence is an exciting development to all of us because it represents both a vision for the neighborhood (and is) a result of real neighborhood participation and input from our many community partners,” said Charles Gaeta, LHAND executive director. “This development is unique as it increases opportunities for low-, moderate- and middle-income families.”

Gaeta said families living in the Gateway will be close to the beach, North Shore Community College, the downtown and could be in Boston in 20 minutes. LHAND will manage the development.

Gaeta said the planning process for the project began with a grant funded by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) — as a result of that, the Washington District Master Plan, initiated by LHAND and funded by the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn, was created.

“The Washington corridor will become a walking community of the waterfront and the downtown and will be a vital step in the economic growth of the city,” Gaeta said.

Mayor Thomas M. McGee said it was great to see a 100 percent union project in the city, which is mixed-income and creates an opportunity for the community and Washington Street corridor.

“It’s so exciting to see this beautiful building, all the work that went on, all the people that really cared about this and it really reflects on what Lynn is all about — opportunity for everyone, union-built units and people coming together to make a difference,” McGee said.

Janelle Chan, DHCD undersecretary, said there is a housing problem in the state. To put it simply, she said lots of housing is needed. Housing is important to stabilize neighborhoods and allows downtown local businesses to provide not only customers, but also employees. Housing, particularly affordable housing, allows cities to retain people, who she called a municipality’s most important asset.

Chan said people typically think of affordable housing as serving low-income people, but in fact, working families also are struggling to find affordable housing.

“Gateway North and now the many developments that this initiative is sponsoring is helping to create, hard-to-find middle-income tier of affordable housing throughout our Commonwealth, the type of affordable housing that doesn’t quite exist yet,” Chan said.

Since launching the Workforce Housing Initiative in May 2016, MassHousing has committed funding to create 616 new workforce housing units, and more than 2,300 mixed-income units overall.

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said the completion of Gateway North is proof to him that concepts, such as private/public partnerships, tax incentives programs, union labor, bipartisanship, zoning reform and community involvement works.

“This is proof that those concepts we talk about and hear about can translate into a beautiful building that folks who can’t afford market-rate and who are just trying to make it by, have a safe and clean, happy place to live,” Cahill said.

The project was funded by DHCD, along with MassHousing Finance Agency, MassHousing Opportunity Fund — Workforce Housing, LHAND, AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, City of Lynn HOME funds, Boston Capital, Neighborhood Development Associates and EDIC/Lynn.

“Let’s replicate this,” said Thomas O’Malley, senior vice-president and director of AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust. “Let’s push this gem downhill. We’ve pushed it uphill for two years. Now, let’s coast downhill and show we can replicate this in other fashions up and down the Lynnway.”

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