Gately Building highlighted as affordable housing success story

Gately Building highlighted as affordable housing success story

The mixed-use Gately Building at 2 Bayley St. is being touted as an example of affordable housing done right. (Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)

PAWTUCKET – State officials chose the gleaming new Gately Building at 2 Bayley St. as their launching pad for the “Yes on 7” campaign promoting the state’s $50 million housing opportunity bond on the ballot in November.

The 1914 structure has been completely transformed with the addition of 13 rental units for low-income Rhode Islanders, Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Harvest Kitchen Program, and community space.

Gov. Gina Raimondo told the crowd outside the Gately Building last Thursday that housing is an issue that touches everyone, that “everybody wins” when there’s more affordable housing available in Rhode Island.

“Everyone in our state should have a roof over their heads. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also a smart investment in the future of our state and economy,” she said. “We can’t expect our children to learn or our workers to succeed without a warm, safe, affordable place to come home to at night.”

The housing bond “revitalize our neighborhoods, create jobs, and makes Rhode Island a place of opportunity for everyone,” said Raimondo.

The Gately Building, a three-story, masonry and cast iron, flat-iron commercial block that for many years housed storefronts on the first floor and office space above, was renovated using money from the state’s 2012 affordable housing bond.

When first constructed in 1914, the ground floor contained four stores. By 1935, the entire first floor had been taken over by the Old Colony Cooperative Bank.

The exterior renovation of the building was meant to restore it to its earliest appearance.

The interior rental units were designed to shoot down the stereotypes of what affordable housing is supposed to look like, said officials. These units with their future tenants are meant to lift up the neighborhood.

The uniquely shaped Gately Building has been “vacant, boarded and distressed” for more than two decades, say the developers, Pawtucket Central Falls Development. The abandoned structure was a detriment to economic development in the downtown since it was last occupied in 1993, they said, as water infiltrated the roof and the structure was compromised. The building was only a few years from needing to be condemned.

One resident in the rehabbed building describes her apartment as “absolutely gorgeous” and says she couldn’t have thought of a better place to live.

Mayor Donald Grebien said he “strongly supports” the 2016 housing bond because high housing and rental costs make it difficult for the city’s hardworking families to make ends meet. The bond will bring affordable homes for residents, good jobs for construction workers, and new life to neighborhoods, said Grebien, calling the bond a “smart investment in Rhode Island.”

There have been two previous affordable housing bonds, including one for $50 million in 2006 and another for $25 million in 2012. Those funds were distributed statewide through a program called Building Homes Rhode Island.

In Pawtucket, $4.7 million in Building Homes Rhode Island funds have been invested in 106 total units, 19 of those in home ownership and another 87 rental units.

Affordable housing is available to people who meet income requirements. Affordable housing means residential housing that has a sales price or rental amount within the means of a household that is moderate income or less, according to Housing Works Rhode Island.

Linda Weisinger, executive director at Pawtucket Central Falls Development, which developed the Gately Building, said supporting the affordable housing bond will “give cities and towns throughout our state greater opportunities to help Rhode Islanders thrive.”

Jesse Rye, co-executive director at Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Harvest Kitchen Program in the Gately Building, said funding from the 2012 bond made the kitchen space “in the beautifully restored” Gately Building possible.

“Voting yes on Question 7 will enable even more needed investments in affordable housing and innovative mixed-use projects across the state,” she said.

Tony Maione, president and CEO at United Way of Rhode Island, said the agency’s 2-1-1 call center has received more than 60,000 requests for help with housing-related needs in the past year, 5,400 requests for housing just in August.

Visitors tour Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s new Harvest Kitchen in the Gately Building after last week’s speaking program promoting the “Yes on 7” campaign to get more funding for affordable housing.
One angle of a new affordable rental unit on the third floor of the Gately Building in downtown Pawtucket.