Cannery Village Hopeful For June Start

BERLIN – The Cannery Village workforce housing project should be under construction by the end of June if all goes well.

Frank Gunion, president of the Berlin Community Development Corporation, said he would know more about the next step at the end of next week when he expects a decision from the state on a necessary community development block grant.

“One thing’s that hanging fire is the continuation of the block grant or not,” said Gunion. “If the block grant is reaffirmed once again, we should be ready to draw a grading permit from the town within the month.”

Supporters have been working on the workforce housing project for four years.

Previous plans made last fall to dig the first shovel of dirt over the winter stalled over funding issues.

The Cannery Village workforce housing project is attempting to knit together support from several different sources to create a small community of green, affordable houses for local residents who cannot afford the high property costs in northern Worcester County.

One consequence of the multiple partners and supporters for the Cannery Village project is limits on funding, which require that work begin by the end of June.

“Other grants we have are keyed into June 28. We have to start by then,” Gunion said.

The workforce housing project has done the proper due diligence, from stormwater to wetlands plans, as well as the necessary engineering. However, the town of Berlin still needs to give final approval to the project.

The most optimistic date for completion of the first 10 homes, the first phase, is probably late fall, Gunion guessed.

Bureaucracy has at times held the project back, with seven different government agencies involved. Gunion put that down in part to the new approach of the workforce housing initiative, which is using a pioneering public-private partnership to pursue the Cannery Village community.

“It’s a new way of doing this project. It’s the only way they’re going to happen,” said Gunion.

For-profit projects cannot afford to sell green houses at an reasonable price. High-end prices are the norm for that type of residence.

“There is very little workforce housing being built or for sale,” said Gunion.