Gov. Deval Patrick announced yesterday that the state will be picking up the tab on the , no doubt welcome relief to local officials in Peabody.
The infrastructure upgrade to redesign the main thoroughfare to Salem is slated to cost $1.5 million and will be completely covered by a grant from MassWorks, according to city officials.
"It's good [news], we're psyched," said Community Development Director Karen Sawyer this morning. "We're ready to roll."
With the , the only hurdle that remained was whether the funds being eyed would come through. If so, construction could begin in March, otherwise it would be further delayed in order to find another funding source.
Patrick's office announced the good news Monday afternoon. The Peabody project is one of 23 similar projects being funded under the grant.
“Our administration has made historic investments to help communities improve their infrastructure and create jobs,” said Patrick. “The MassWorks Infrastructure Program is a great example of our how we can stimulate local economies and support projects that will benefit communities for generations to come.”
Sawyer said the city is finalizing the bid documents with the consultant firm that designed the project plans for the city, Green International, and hopes to open the public bidding process soon.
The brief summary for the grant award in yesterday's announcement notes the project for Peabody's downtown will improve pedestrian safety and business development for the area, along with creating 100 new housing units.
There were no specific details given on that last point, but Sawyer said, "knowing it would help [the] proposal," the city felt it prudent to include in its application a projection on possible new housing developments -- any such projects would certainly become more attractive to all with the safety improvements.
She said the Holy Ghost Society, which purchased the vacant plot of land behind the Howley Street hall -- about three acres -- a couple years ago, is in talks with a developer for an assisted living facility on the site. Sawyer said she understands there may also be a mixture of market-rate and affordable units.
She clarified, however, that there is no definite agreement she is aware of at this point for that project.
The vacant land itself was slated for about 200 units of residential condos until the economy and housing market forestalled those plans. The city finally refused to extend permits for the property after a few years with little to no activity on the site and run-ins with local and state conservation officials on proper maintenance of the site.
Patrick's office noted the downtown area has been identified in the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission’s MetroFutures Plan as an area of priority development and growth, and the city has already spent money on the Main Street project. Sawyer said the city has spent $150,000 on Green International.
The MassWorks program is administered by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (HED).
HED Secretary Greg Bialecki said these type of MassWorks projects aid cities and towns with crucial infrastructure upgrades while making it easier for businesses to expand and assist with local job growth.
On the North Shore, public projects in Lynn, Topsfield and Saugus similarly received funding for rehabilitation of a seaport marina, fixing a bridge and replacing water mains under Route 1.
Peabody competed with 157 other applications from cities and towns for more than $400 million in grant funding. Patrick's office said all applications were reviewed for consistency with the program’s priorities, including readiness to proceed with construction and the state’s sustainable development principles.
Sawyer said she didn't realize how competitive the grant was until she saw the list of approved projects in the governor's announcement.
She said the city is hoping to complete major construction between March and November 2012.