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Reclaiming a neighborhood

Plymouth Street Initiative lauded Cleghorn project "reclaims a neighborhood ...'

Christina E. Sanchez | Tuesday, July 13, 2004

T&G STAFF

FITCHBURG- Once an area of dilapidated buildings, vandalism, and crime, Plymouth Street has been transformed into an alluring and affordable neighborhood that will serve as a model for future city developments, local officials said yesterday.

Representatives of the city's public and private sectors toasted the fruition of the Plymouth Street Initiative yesterday vowing to continue neighborhood revitalization efforts throughout Fitchburg.

Attendees of the occasion, many of whom have seen the project from beginning to end, stepped inside the new duplex home located at Plymouth and Orchard streets to take a gander at affordable housing in style.

The aroma of freshly painted walls permeated the three levels of the duplex. Viewers of the first home poked their heads into the multiple walk-in closets and climbed the glistening wooden staircase, while commenting on the beauty of the new dwelling.

The home represents the final phase of the Plymouth Street Initiative, which was organized by the Twin Cities Development Corp. in partnership with the city and Bovenzi Inc., a construction firm.

Buyers of the homes were selected in April by a lottery process, where applicants were required to fall within income guidelines and be able to secure a mortgage to be eligible.

Peter Bovenzi said these new homes prove that modern and affordable housing does not have to be low quality, pointing out that the duplex's have underground sprinkler systems, home theater systems, energy efficient utilities and a Jacuzzi.

"This represents a culmination of three years of work by the Twin City CDC, the city and the private sector. It's a great situation for the city to go into blighted areas and place high quality housing," he said.

Mr. Bovenzi said he would continue to work with the CDC and the city on future projects, one of which is expected to go before the Fitchburg Planning Board on July 27 for permit approval.

He said the proposal is to create similar affordable housing that would include eight single-family homes at the intersection of Rollstone and Bruce streets.

"Projects likes this do a lot to turn a neighborhood around and have an impact on the neighboring homes. This is not only about building homes, but providing $1 million in local construction jobs and providing an opportunity for kids and the community to learn about construction," Mr. Bovenzi said.

Nine LUK Inc. students, who are a working toward their high school degree, installed the home theater systems in the duplexes, he added.

Mayor Dan H. Mylott commended Mr. Bovenzi for stepping up to the challenge and working as an individual from the private sector who was willing make an investment in the city.

"This project shows people that the idea that the inner city is something to shy away from is false. It proves that you can transform a neighborhood and you can bring up a child in the Cleghorn area in a safe environment," Mr. Mylott said.

Marc Dohan, executive director of the CDC, said the success of the Plymouth Street Initiative is the result of different people working together to realize one vision.

"The project turns Cleghorn from a neighborhood of last resort to a neighborhood where people want to live. It reclaims a neighborhood back for the city and makes it something special," Mr. Dohan

Planning Coordinator David J. Streb was among the many who marveled at the success of a project that encompasses the goals of similar initiatives for the future.

"We have identified a couple of lots in the (Fitchburg State) College neighborhood that we hope will be the next to provide affordable housing ... We are procuring architectural services for it and hope to begin site work in coming months," he said.

Former Fitchburg City Mayor Mary H. Whitney stood with state Rep. Emile J. Goguen, D-Fitchburg, in awe of the neighborhood's makeover, which began while she was in office.

"It was nice to see the first three go up (in Phase I) and still be standing. It's great for somebody like me to see the whole project finished. Everyone in the neighborhood has a different outlook and will keep it in good condition," Ms. Whitney said.

From Worcester Telegram & Gazette

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