Case Study

Bergen Circle in Springfield, MA

5 min read

Massachusetts Rehab Shows an Egalitarian Spirit

An egalitarian spirit of co-locating affordable renters in a development along with middle-income residents and market-rate occupants is a housing idea that is being seen more and more. One such effort is in Springfield, MA, where a rehab is underway to create revitalized housing for a population that includes all three types: affordable, workforce and market-rate renters.

Bergen Circle Apartments is a 201-unit project with the majority of units in one seven- story building and the rest in seven two-story townhomes. One hundred seventy of the units will receive housing subsidy vouchers, with 118 of the units affordable to those at 60 percent of area median income (AMI), while an additional 52 are for households earning up to 80 percent of AMI. The other 31 are market-rate units.

Unit sizes at Bergen Circle range from two- to four-bedrooms. There are 89 one-bedroom apartments, 72 two-bedroom apartments, 20 three-bedroom apartments and 20 four-bedroom apartments. The AMI for Springfield is $77,200 for a household of four.

Tom Farmer, spokesman for funder MassHousing, confirms, “All the units will be the same regardless of income,” and Executive Director Chrystal Kornegay says the much-needed work planned by Michaels at the nearly 50-year-old project “will revitalize the property and provide quality housing and economic opportunities for the Bergen residents for many years into the future.”

Springfield’s mayor says he was pleased with the wide variety of income levels. “This development checks every mark for our low- and moderate-income residents and market-rate housing,” says Mayor Domenic Sarno.

While The Michaels Organization is a national real estate developer, property manager, construction company and financier, Bergen Circle is its first affordable housing development in Massachusetts.

TMO Takes Over
Edward Henderson, vice president, says Michaels got involved in the ownership and management of Bergen Circle when the existing general partner got out and Michaels replaced it. Michaels Construction is serving as the general contractor and Michaels Management is serving as the property manager. Michaels’ involvement dates to April of this year.

“We didn’t change any of the income tiering,” Henderson says. “There is going to be no segregation, and  no displacement of residents.” Residents will be relocated temporarily to on-site hotel units while construction goes on. “Most of the residents will be moved to different units. But they will all remain at Bergen Circle,” he says.

Construction will start in late July and take 18 months in total, he says. There is no tax credit finance at Bergen Circle, but the quasi-public MassHousing has provided a $13.3 million construction loan and a $7.9 million loan for repairs.

“We allocated almost $17 million to address the physical needs for the property. That covers a long range of items,” says Henderson. They include building envelope repairs and water infiltration remediation, the installation of new windows, flooring and appliances, kitchens, bathrooms and HVAC upgrades, and replacing sanitary and water risers on the midrise building.

“We’re leaving the footprint of the units themselves as is,” Henderson notes. “I don’t foresee any specific challenges. This is what we do all across the country and are lucky to do this for a living. The substantial rehabilitation of the buildings, as well as the upgrades to individual apartment homes will improve the lives of our current residents while preserving the affordability of the community for years to come.

Putting in Parking
One vacant building on the property will be demolished, Henderson says. “It was an old commercial building that’s been vacated,” he notes. But Bergen Circle will be residential only, with no commercial usage to replace what was in that vacant building. There will, though, be an important addition made on the demolition site.

“We’re adding parking,” he says.

Security will be upgraded as well where necessary, Henderson adds.

Henderson emphasizes that Mass Housing is a terrific partner, whose goals align with Michaels’ mission of lifting lives. “This is a win-win for all involved, especially the residents of Bergen Circle.”

The project, which dates to 1974, is at 15 Girard Ave. in a residential neighborhood in the McKnight area of Springfield. The general contractor is Michaels Construction.

The architect is Urban Practice and the management agent is Michaels Management.

The Michaels Organization serves 146,000 residents in more than 425 communities nationwide. MassHousing has financed 12 rental housing communities in Springfield totaling 2,564 units of housing with an overall original loan amount of $157.4 million.

The agency has also provided home mortgage loans to 4,736 homebuyers and homeowners in Springfield with an original purchase principal balance of $356.7 million.

Egalitarian Goes Bigtime
A couple of recent, big housing projects show an egalitarian outlook of a wide mix of incomes, including the Sibley Building in Rochester, NY and Envision Cayce in Nashville.

The Sibley (Tax Credit Advisor, March 2020) is an enormous reconfiguration of a historic department store, an “everything building,” which has residential, retail, a food market and even campus space for two local educational institutions.

On the residential side, 300 units are being developed in three separate developments at The Sibley, including affordable, workforce, affordable senior and market-rate housing. The affordable and workforce units (that segment is being called “the Liberty Lofts”) are on three floors of the building, with the units being identical and no segregating of affordable and workforce residents.

The Sibley project is so big that even 300 housing units only take up about a third of its space.

Envision Cayce in Nashville (Tax Credit Advisor, July 2021) is an ambitious project to decentralize poverty by moving more than 700 residents of aging public housing into a newly constructed community in East Nashville where they will be intertwined with equal numbers of workforce and market-rate renters.

Mark Fogarty has covered housing and mortgages for more than 30 years. A former editor at National Mortgage News, he has written extensively about tax credits.