1/22/2016: Newton Tab article on Cherry St homeless housing project

A nonprofit developer is looking to convert a historic property on Cherry Street in West Newton into rental housing for homeless families.

CAN-DO would need millions in city preservation funds in addition to state tax credits to complete the project at 424-432 Cherry St.

The developer submitted a preliminary proposal seeking $3 million from the Community Preservation Committee, but withdrew the request temporarily last week after telling committee members the plan’s details needed to be reworked.

The initial proposal called for nine individual units to be created inside the existing structure, plus another three newly constructed, three-bedroom units for families.

Josephine McNeil, executive director of CAN-DO, said the Warren administration preferred the project focus solely on homeless families. She is now developing new plans for a family-centered project.

But the project’s fate is still very much up in the air as McNeil waits to hear back from state housing officials as to whether her organization is eligible to apply for certain tax credits. She said the project wouldn’t be able to move forward without the state assistance.

McNeil said the Cherry Street project would be pursued using the state’s affordable housing law, Chapter 40B. She hoped it could be a so-called “friendly 40B,” whereby city officials would endorse the project ahead of the developer’s application for a comprehensive permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

CAN-DO has signed a purchase and sale agreement with the property’s current owner, CRM Management, LLC, to acquire the property for $2.5 million. The property is currently office space, according to McNeil.

The building — constructed circa 1716 — is the third-oldest home in Newton, according to research previously provided by Historic Newton.

Previous owners throughout history include prominent Newtonians William Williams, Richard Coolidge, John Pigeon and Samuel Warren.

McNeil said she would be meeting with the neighborhood to discuss the project next week.

She hopes to hear back from state housing officials about eligibility to apply for funding by the end of the month.

CAN-DO, or Citizens for Affordable Housing in Newton Development Organization, Inc., has completed roughly a dozen small affordable housing projects in Newton over the last two decades, according to its website.

By Jonathan Dame

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