BERLIN – Town officials offered their support to a downtown mixed use project planned by Habitat for Humanity of Worcester County.
On Monday, the Berlin Town Council agreed to give Habitat for Humanity a letter of support for the building it has planned for 21 Jefferson St. as the organization begins to seek grants for the project.
“We need to be able to show the state the town is supportive of the project and the project is aligned with the town’s goals,” said Andrea Bowland, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Worcester County.
Bowland told the council her organization planned to purchase the early 20th century home at 21 Jefferson St. and demolish it to erect a mixed use building on the site. The home, though historic, is in poor condition. The new building would include retail space on the ground floor with apartments above. Habitat for Humanity would retain ownership of the retail space, leasing it to generate income for the organization, while the apartments would be sold.
Bowland says ideally, the retail space would be leased to artists.
“We intend to keep the business space affordable as well,” Bowland said. “Our vision is that artists just starting out could be homeowners.”
The organization’s plans have already been approved by the town’s historic district commission and planning commission.
Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said the project made sense, particularly because several neighboring properties were used by artists.
“It seems like it would be a natural spot,” he said.
Bowland added that nearby businesses would benefit from the new building.
“It’s going to bring traffic down the street which will help other businesses as well,” she said.
In addition to the letter of support, Bowland said she was seeking permission for Habitat for Humanity to pay for the two EDUs needed for the property over a period of five years after putting a 10 percent deposit down. The practice has been allowed for various developers in Berlin in recent years. She also asked for the town to absorb the cost of moving a utility pole on the site that would have to be addressed in the redevelopment of the property.
Officials agreed to grant both requests and draft the requested letter of support.
“Everyone’s excited for the project,” Council member Lisa Hall said.