News & Event
Join PCF Development on November 29th at 11am for a short speaking ceremony followed by a tour of the first completed building in the Branch Blackstone development. This TOD property is within walking distance of the future Commuter Rail Station.
By Christine Dunn
Journal Staff Writer
Posted Nov 29, 2017 at 2:13 PM
Updated Nov 29, 2017 at 7:12 PM
CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — Tenants will move in Friday to the first completed building in the 46-unit Branch Blackstone affordable housing development, a renovated three-family home at 39-41 Knight St.
The nonprofit Pawtucket Central Falls Development Corp. announced plans early last year for Branch Blackstone, which will include 29 homes in four new buildings under construction at 4-8 Branch St. in Pawtucket, by the Blackstone River. In addition, 17 affordable apartments at scattered sites in Pawtucket and Central Falls will be renovated as part of the $11.2-million project.
In addition to 39-41 Knight St., Central Falls, the other buildings to be rehabilitated are located in Pawtucket, at 39 John St., 36 Middle St., 181 Japonica St. and 138 Woodbine St.
According to PCF Development’s executive director, Linda Weisinger, monthly rents for the three-bedroom apartments at 39-41 Knight St. will be $776. The building was gutted and rebuilt in a modern redesign by Ed Wojcik Architects Ltd. Stand Corp. was the general contractor.
Overall, the Branch Blackstone development will include a mix of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units, with rents ranging from $600 to $950 a month.
Weisinger noted at Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony that affordable homes for working families are hard to come by in Central Falls, where 75 percent of the residents are renters. She said that, according to HousingWorks RI, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Central Falls is $983, which requires an annual income of at least $39,000 to be “affordable,” that is, consuming no more than 30 percent of a household’s gross income.
In Central Falls, 60 percent of the renters are “cost-burdened,” meaning they are spending more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing, Weisinger added.
Nearly 100 people attended the ceremony on Wednesday morning at Knight Street. Speakers included Weisinger, Joshua Giraldo, the chief of staff for the Central Falls mayor’s office; Dylan Zelazo, chief of staff at the Pawtucket mayor’s office, State Rep. Shelby Maldonado, State Sen. Elizabeth Crowley, Thomas McColgan of TD Bank, Rhode Island Housing Executive Director Barbara Fields and Rhode Island LISC Executive Director Jeanne Cola.
Several speakers noted that the GOP’s federal tax legislation now before Congress threatens programs that support affordable housing.
The largest part of Branch Blackstone, located along the Blackstone River at Branch Street in Pawtucket, is a formerly contaminated site that has been remediated. PCF Development is also working with the City of Pawtucket to create a public riverfront park at the end of East Street, adjacent to the new apartments on Branch Street. The park, formerly the site of illegal trash dumping, will have seating, a walking path, shade trees and new landscaping.
On Twitter: @ChristineMDunn
Courtesy of Providence Journal
By JACQUELYN MOOREHEAD, Valley Breeze Contributing Writer
CENTRAL FALLS – Carmen Catalan says she couldn’t be happier to be home for the holidays this year. She and her family settled into a newly renovated affordable housing unit at 39-41 Knight St. in Central Falls on Dec. 1.
During a Nov. 27 ribbon-cutting ceremony with more than 100 people in attendance, Catalan shed tears of happiness as she stood in her new kitchen, surrounded by family, friends and local officials.
Struggling to put into words how happy she was, Catalan pointed to the front bay window as the spot where she plans to put her Christmas tree.
“This unit is beautiful. I am very happy and feel excited about moving into our new home,” she said. “I feel that making this move is going to be helpful to my family because it is going to be affordable for my family. Having opportunities like affordable housing is needed for all families.”
The building is part of the nonprofit Pawtucket Central Falls (PCF) Development Corporation’s investment of $11 million in affordable housing in Pawtucket and Central Falls. First to be completed, the Knight Street home is part of a 46-unit Branch Blackstone Development. Scattered throughout Pawtucket and Central Falls, the project is made up of six sites, which with 29 homes, and 17 apartments.
Two othr recipient families at the Knight Street building did not to attend the ceremony, but Linda Weisinger, PCF Development Corporation’s executive director, spoke about their sentiments, saying both are grateful for the opportunity to have affordable housing.
“It takes more than housing to build and sustain strong communities,” Weisinger said. “Today we celebrate the three families who will make this their home. The families will move in and celebrate the holidays in their new home.”
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebian said PCF Development’s effort will help revitalize the city, and welcomed the new families home.
“I welcome the families to our communities and wish them a happy holiday in their new homes,” he said.
Though unable to attend, Central Falls Mayor James Diossa said in a statement he considers PCF Development a “trusted partner.”
“The transformation of 39 Knight St. is yet another demonstration of the work that we can accomplish together, creating opportunities for families to live in beautiful apartments that help revitalize our city,” he said.
Catalan’s first-floor home has refurbished wooden floors and new carpeting. All the fixtures are new and designed to complement each other, from the dark wooden cabinets in the kitchen to the shiny white tile in the bathroom. The attention to detail shone through, making the apartment and home appear brand new.
Emphasizing the affordability factor, Weisinger said renters at 39-41 Knight St. pay $776 in rent a month, substantially less than the average $983 a month to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Central Falls. She said 75 percent of Central Falls residents are renters, and 60 percent are “cost-burdened.”
Rhode Island Housing Executive Director Barbara Fields said creating new homes is the best way to revitalize the community, because new homes mean new business and new jobs.
“Each investment leverages additional investment,” she said.
Fields said the building is symbolic of how Rhode Island Housing is putting federal low-income housing tax credit to work.
Additional buildings are located on Branch Street, East Street, Japonica Street, Middle Street, John Street and Woodbine Street in Pawtucket, scheduled for completion in 2018. Applications for leasing the remaining homes are still available through PCF Development and Maloney Properties.
Funding for Branch Blackstone Development comes from the cities of Pawtucket and Central Falls, the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, Housing Ministries of New England, LISC Rhode Island, National Equity Fund, Pawtucket Credit Union, Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency, Rhode Island Housing and TD Bank.
Courtesy of The Valley Breeze
By Christine Dunn, Journal Staff Writer
Posted Nov 30, 2017 at 12:10PM, Updated Nov 30, 2017 at 12:26PM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A playground for an elementary school in South Providence, downtown revitalization in Woonsocket, and a new continuing-education center in Central Falls were among the projects that won support in the first round of awards from the $10-million urban revitalization/blight relief fund approved by state voters in 2016 as part of the $50-million affordable housing bond.
The Rhode Island Housing Board of Commissioners on Thursday morning approved close to $3.8 million in awards to six different projects. The next round of awards is planned for March 2018. Known formally as the Acquisition and Revitalization Program, its aim is to stabilize neighborhoods by targeting foreclosed or blighted residential and commercial properties and vacant lots in need of redevelopment.
Although ARP financing is available statewide, 75 percent of the funding has been set aside for urban communities.
A request for proposals went out in July, and 18 proposals requesting $10.9 million were received. Nine of the proposals failed to meet requirements. The awards approved by the board Thursday are:
—- $1 million for the Dexter Adult Learning and Workforce Development Hub in Central Falls, in a vacant building at 934 Dexter St., formerly the Dexter Credit Union building. The hub is being developed by the City of Central Falls and Rhode Island College. The project, with an estimated cost of $5.8 million, is also being supported by state and federal historic tax credits, and EPA brownfields money.
— $975,000 for the Millrace District Creative Placemaking Initiative in downtown Woonsocket. Three vacant mills at 15 Island Place and 69 South Main St. are being redeveloped as housing and commercial space by NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, a nonprofit community development agency. There will be 58 live-work units and 6 commercial units. Rhode Island Housing said this award is for the commercial part of the project only.
— $612,484 for the Bailey Baxter Playspace Project. Working with the Nature Conservancy, the City of Providence will create a playground for the Bailey Elementary School at 65 Gordon Ave. and improve adjacent Baxter Park by redeveloping two vacant and blighted properties with lots at 56, 57, 58, 61, 62 and 66 Baxter Street. The total cost is $890,385, and the effort is also being financed by the City of Providence and Community Development Block Grant funds.
— $906,369 for Georgiaville Village Green, Smithfield’s first affordable housing development for families, at the intersection of Higgins Street and Whipple Avenue. There will be 42 apartments built for households earning less than 60 percent of area median income. It is an $11-million development by Coventry Housing Associates Corp. and Gemini Housing Corp.
— $146,727 for SWAP Inc. for 136 Rugby St., Providence.; and
— $153,528 for SWAP Inc. for 44 Lillian Ave., Providence. SWAP (Stop Wasting Abandoned Properties) will develop two-family homes on two vacant lots. Each house will include a three-bedroom homeownership apartment and a two-bedroom rental unit.
Posted Jun 16, 2018 at 9:50 PM
Updated Jun 16, 2018 at 9:50 PM
CENTRAL FALLS — Maria Bashide, an 87-year-old immigrant from Cabo Verde, was serious as she leaned forward to tell her adopted netas, granddaughters, some advice on life, in a small conference room at Forand Manor, 30 Washington St. Her gray hair set in place with precision hair-pinning and her eyes closing ever so slightly, so as to convey the seriousness of her intentions.
“What can they learn from me?” she asked rhetorically, referring to her teenage friends in Portuguese. “Make sure you maintain the wisdom in your head. Be obedient so that you can be happy.
“In this way, you can be sure you’re not alone,” she continued. “You can make sure that —”
″— You don’t have to live alone,” replied 16-year-old Sara Lopes-Tavares, a Portuguese immigrant of Cabo Verdean descent and a student at Central Falls High School. “But you don’t need to get married neither.”
The scene — straight out of a novella that one might see on RTP 1 or Rede Globo — showed the differences between generations, and how they could be bridged through the Intergenerational Farmers Market Project of the Local Initiative Support Corps, in conjunction with the Central Falls Housing Authority, Rhode Island Black Storyteller and Rhode Island Latino Arts.
Trying to bridge the generational gap is only one part of a greater initiative.
The pilot program received a $75,000 grant from Tufts University for development, testing, evaluation and curriculum development. The grant was renewed in the amount of $120,000 officially on Thursday afternoon, ensuring its continuation for two more years and expansion to five elder sites in Rhode Island.
The program aims to reduce social isolation and its negative health consequences for the elderly and improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income populations.
Cases such as Bashide’s are why such programs are necessary, according to LISC.
“When I saw her come down and actually stay, I was amazed,” said Meaghan LaVasseur, resource service coordinator at Forand Manor, a low-income housing complex for the elderly and disabled. “It was amazing to see her light up like that.”
“I enjoyed meeting them,” said Bashide, in Portuguese. “It made me feel satisfied.”
The program tried holding events at Hope Artiste Village earlier in the year to no avail. They realized that going to these communities would be more effective than holding the event at a place to which participants would need to travel.
For Bashide, she had been traveling so much that it was about time that people came to her. She came to the U.S. when she was already in her 60s in order to help raise some grandchildren in Pawtucket.
But long before that, she witnessed history while living in Benguela, Angola — then a Portuguese colony like Cabo Verde — between 1956 and 1975 in the midst of that country’s armed independence struggle.
“I lived in Benguela, on the coast, and I did not see no war,” she said. “The war was happening in the forests of the countryside... You had to travel eight days in order to get to the war zone.”
From there, she moved to Portugal soon after independence, but returned to Cabo Verde before moving to the U.S. in 1998. The plan was originally to stay for six months, but she stayed at her daughter’s request. In 2008 she moved into Suite 901 at Forand Manor because she wanted her own space.
“My grandchildren were older,” she said. “So I said, ‘I’m getting my own house because I’m used to being on my own now.’”
Fast-forward to 2018: she has found a group of Cabo Verdean children who have become her fan club.
“That day when we met, we began to dance funana,” said Beatriz Martins, 16, a rising junior at Central Falls High School. She immigrated from Cabo Verde when she was 10. “And she heard us talking and laughing.”
“I don’t know any island in Cabo Verde beyond São Vicente,” said Bashide. “But I heard them, understood everything and could tell which islands they all were from just based on the kriolu.” Kriolu is Cabo Verdean Creole.
The attraction was almost immediate, according to witnesses.
“It was so cute,” said Deanna Bruno, a LISC program assistant who was one of several chefs who teamed up on tomato soup cake on Thursday afternoon. “The kids that were around her seemed like moths to a flame.”
While nice to watch, the youths insisted that they are also learning a lot from her.
“It was pure happiness to meet her,” said Lopes-Tavares. “The staff here told us that she was so happy because of us.
“She even called us her grandchildren,” she continued. “Her happiness caused my happiness.”
For Elaine Ramos, a freshman at Central Falls High School, as well as a recent immigrant from Bashide’s island, São Vicente, it has a special significance.
“It’s difficult for me here because I live alone with my father and my mom is back in Cabo Verde,” she said in Portuguese. “All of my family is there.
“She’s cool,” she continued. “She tells stories about home that I didn’t even know about and it makes me feel closer to their.”
“I wish my grandmother were like her,” said Martins. “Her stories make us young people want to live all her lives.”
On Twitter: @Kevprojo
Posted Apr 20, 2018 at 12:01 AM
Updated Apr 20, 2018 at 12:02 AM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island’s four-year high school graduation rates improved slightly over last year’s figures but substantial gaps remain between white students and students of color as well as between poor students and their middle-class peers.
The R.I. Department of Education reported that, overall, 84.1 percent of the Class of 2017 graduated, a 1.3-point increase over last year.
While rates increased incrementally for black students, students learning English saw a drop in graduation rates, down by 1.4 points.
Rhode Island also lags behind its closest neighbors. Connecticut posted a graduate rate of 87.9 percent while Massachusetts had a rate of 88.3 percent.
Rhode Island’s deputy education commissioner, Mary Ann Snider, said the increase overall represents “a positive trend upward.”
“The important part for us is that it’s trending in the right direction,” she said, noting that Rhode Island has seen an eight-point rise in rates since 2010. “We want to make sure that when kids walk the stage, they are prepared for whatever they want to do next.”
However, urban districts — Providence, Central Falls, Woonsocket and Pawtucket — are graduating students at much lower rates than their suburban peers — with a 15-point gap. Ninety percent of suburban students graduated last year.
More students graduate in five years in urban districts compared with suburban ones, but Snider said that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
She acknowledges that there is a body of research that says students who are held back are at higher risk for dropping out and not attending college.
But, Snider said, Rhode Island is re-imagining the notion of retention. Today, all high school students are supposed to have individual learning goals, including candid conversations about what they need to graduate.
“The fifth year is proving to be beneficial,” she said. “It helps ensure that kids don’t go to the Community College of Rhode Island needing lots of remediation.”
More high school students, Snider said, are also taking Advanced Placement courses and college-level classes at the same time that career and technical opportunities are expanding.
Several educators, led by the superintendents of Providence and Central Falls, have pushed to include funding for English language learners, many of whom are Latino, to be included in the school funding formula, which is currently based on families living in poverty plus a community’s tax capacity. Poorer cities get a larger share of state school dollars than their more affluent peers.
Snider said the state now sets aside $2.5 million in state funds for English language learners but that money is dependent on the General Assembly for support. She also said that her department is offering more support for this population by awarding seals of bi-literacy, which recognize a student’s fluency in two languages by including it on his or her diploma.
“We’re not going to see improvements overnight,” she said.
But Gabriela Domenzain, director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University, said there should be a real sense of urgency around these numbers.
“Latino students in Rhode have the worst chances of succeeding in the nation, so it comes as no surprise that the achievement gaps are substantial and troubling,” she said. “In order for Rhode Island to succeed, Latino students must succeed, and a concerted effort to close their achievement gaps is necessary and urgent.”
A surprising finding is the eight-point gap between the sexes — with girls graduating at 88.2 percent while boys graduate at only 80.3 percent.
“We don’t want to see that,” Snider said. “It’s concerning. It’s consistent with the gaps in academic achievement” between the sexes.
Snider said the gap may be because traditional classrooms are designed to accommodate girls more than boys, who perhaps would do better with more hands-on learning.
“On the flip side,” she said, “when we look at career and technical programs, we see females accessing them less than male students.”
Classical, East Greenwich and Scituate high schools have the highest graduation rates at roughly 97 percent.
The lowest rates are in the urban districts, with a couple of notable exceptions: Providence Career and Technical Academy posted a 88.9 percent rate, a tribute to hands-on learning and real-life skills.
Woonsocket High School was among the lowest, with a graduation rate of 67.5 percent.
Central Falls High showed improvement, moving up nine points to 78.3 percent.
“We know that we have more work left to do to get more students across the stage, but each year we are making the climb and keeping a steady pace upward,” said Central Falls Superintendent Victor Capellan. “I congratulate the high school leadership, the teachers, the students and the parents for stepping up and demonstrating that students in Central Falls are resilient and they have what it takes to succeed.”
Several charter public schools also displayed rates above 90 percent, including Paul Cuffee School in Providence, Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts in Providence, Beacon Charter School and the Met School in Providence.
But a couple of charters, Skip Nowell Leadership Academy in Providence, which is for pregnant and parenting teens, and Rhode Island Nurses Academy, also in Providence, had rates of 20 percent and below. Nowell just had its charter license renewed.
By Joseph Fitzgerald / firstname.lastname@example.org
WOONSOCKET — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
The Woonsocket Martin Luther King Community Committee and NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley were doing their part to answer that question Saturday at St. James Baptist Church on South Main Street, where more than 30 volunteers young and old kicked off a year-long service project repurposing old newspaper boxes into mini-food pantries called Blessing Boxes.
The concept is simple. The box is a miniature food pantry – receiving items from those who want to donate, and offering it to those who need them.
This small-scale charity movement is starting to take hold in neighborhoods across the country, including Woonsocket, where volunteers representing the Woonsocket Martin Luther King Community Committee, St. James Baptist Church, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, Americorps and Citizens Bank spent most of Saturday afternoon turning 11 newspaper boxes donated by The Call/Times into Blessing Boxes to be placed at local churches and businesses in Woonsocket to provide food and supplies to anyone in need.
Carol Wilson-Allen, secretary of the Woonsocket Martin Luther King Community Committee, said committee members, along with Margaux Morisseau, director of community engagement at NeighborWorks, got the idea for the service project after seeing a news story about a similar effort in Texas.
“This is something people are doing all across the country and we thought it would be a great service project for this year’s MLK weekend celebration,” said Wilson-Allen, adding the boxes will ensure that homeless and other food insecure individuals have access to food at all times of the day, every day.
The project fits perfectly the theme of this year’s celebration – “What are you doing for others?” – which recognizes the need to come together as a community to support one another, and as a prelude to Monday’s MLK Day of Service, the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service.
“This will help meet the needs of our community,” said Wilson-Allen. “The importance of serving others is what Dr. King’s message was all about.”
The basement cafeteria of St. James Baptist Church was a beehive of activity where volunteers scrubbed the boxes clean and painted them blue and green. Each box will look the same with a stenciled design depicting a maple tree and apples.
“The design stencils were made by Riverzedge Arts to convey the idea of a giving tree,” says Morriseau, who was able to recruit several folks from NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley – including Execuitve Director Joe Garlick – to volunteer on Saturday.
NWBRV is a non-profit community development corporation that works with residents, businesses, neighborhood institutions, partners, and communities to enrich neighborhood life and make affordable housing opportunities available throughout Northern Rhode Island.
“It’s a beautiful idea,” says Irene Davis, a NWBRV employee for 22 years and a Woonsocket resident for more than 30 years.
After the boxes are painted and dry, they will be stocked with bottles of water, granola bars, other ready-to-eat foods, toiletries and other needed supplies. Each of the re-purposed newspaper boxes will be “adopted” by local churches, businesses and social service organizations, whose congregations and staff will keep the boxes filled all year long.
Five of the 11 boxes have already been adopted by St. James Baptist Church, 30 South Main St.; Calvary Worship Center, 120 Prospect Street; Community Care Alliance, 800 Clinton St.; Riverzedge Arts, 196 2nd Avenue; and Lot-O-Laundry, 150 North Main St.
The Woonsocket Martin Luther King Community Committee is recruiting other organizations, businesses and churches to adopt a Blessing Box and to help out with donations of ready-to-eat foods, drinks and toiletries. Donations can be dropped off at St. James Church, 30 South Main St.
“It is better to give than receive,” said Thomas Gray, a committee member and deacon at St. James Baptist Church. “This service project that is part of the MLK weekend this year gives us all a chance to give throughout the year. We hope the community comes out strong to support the Blessing Boxes that will ensure that no one in our city goes hungry.”
The Blessing Box project is part of the 17th annual Woonsocket MLK Celebration, which kicked off Friday with the Hinson Scholarship Dinner at the Millrace Event Space on South Main Street. Proceeds from the dinner will support two scholarships for high school seniors who have made strong contributions to the community.
The celebration continues today with an interfaith workshop service at 3 p.m. at St. James Baptist Church, and ends Monday with the annual Memorial Service at the MLK Sculpture Garden at the intersection of South Main Street and mason Street. A reception will follow at St. James Baptist Church.
“Our annual MLK weekend gives everyone a chance to be involved,” said committee member Emma Dandy. “It really shows the unity that is here in our community.”
There are also Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events planned in Pawtucket and Central Falls on Monday, including:
- Letter from Birmingham City Jail: Mixed Magic Theatre, 560 Mineral Spring Ave., Pawtucket. 2 p.m. Dramatic performance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 response to Southern religious leaders who objected to his nonviolent activism. Pay what you can. Light refreshments afterward.
- Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa and the City of Central Falls Martin Luther King Jr. Day event from 6-7 p.m. at Chikondi Café, 590 Dexter Street. The celebration will feature Ricardo Pitts-Wiley and the Mixed Magic Theatre with renditions of various MLK speeches. The Cafe, which opened less than a year ago, was named chikondi which means ‘love’ in African dialects.
Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7
Courtesy of Pawtucket Times
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