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Old parking lots give rise to new homes in Lynn

One of the four new buildings that comprise the River's End Townhomes the authority recently built on a vacant former GE parking lot in West Lynn. There are 12 units in all among the four buildings.LHAND

The Lynn housing authority recently completed the latest phase of a multi-year project that is bringing new vitality to an area near the General Electric Riverworks plant.

At a ribbon-cutting, agency officials and other city leaders celebrated the opening of River’s End Townhomes, 12 ownership units spread among four new buildings at the intersection of Burns and River streets near the Saugus River.

The new townhomes, and eight single-family homes created in the two previous phases of the West Lynn project, were constructed on long-vacant sites GE formerly used as parking lots. The housing authority, whose nonprofit development arm, Neighborhood Development Associates, is undertaking the overall project, bought the properties at discount from GE in 2016-17.

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Capping the overall $9.8 million redevelopment, the authority is building six townhomes on the vacant former site of a Western Avenue gas station. Lynn took the contaminated brownfield for nonpayment of taxes in 2012. The Lynn Economic Development Industrial Corp. used federal funds to clean up the site in 2015, and in 2020 deeded it to the authority.

Of the project’s 26 overall units, nine are affordable — including three of the River’s End Townhomes — and the remainder market rate. All are two- and three-bedroom.

“I think it’s really making a difference,” said Peggy Phelps, the housing authority’s director of planning and development. “All the sites are cleaned up and everything is blending in well with the surrounding area. Neighbors are extremely happy with the progress we’ve made.”

As part of the project, the housing authority also used federal funds to provide grants and loans to enable some existing homeowners in the neighborhood to upgrade their properties.

The River’s End Townhomes are across Western Avenue from the GE plant, while the final phase units, and those built in the first two phases — four on Minot Street in 2018, and four on Richard and Light streets in 2020 — are on the GE side of the road.

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The addition of the River’s End Townhomes provides a missing piece to a small riverside neighborhood which until now had been broken up by one of the long-empty GE parking lots, Phelps said. “Now that you have all the townhomes there it looks just beautiful.”

“We’ve been doing this a long time,” Charles Gaeta, the authority’s executive director, said of the four-year project. “But the [River’s End Townhomes] is especially important and we’re excited to be involved in it. We took vacant land and we’re expanding a small neighborhood. We’re also accommodating first-time home buyers and including affordable units.”

“We couldn’t have built this at a better time in terms of marketing the units,” Gaeta added, noting that like the completed eight single-family homes, the new townhomes sold quickly and are now occupied.

The multi-year construction is being financed through loans repaid through sales of the units. Federal subsidies are funding the cost of making some of the units affordable.

Phelps said the redevelopment helps meet a local need for housing of all types, and a city goal of expanding the supply of family-owned units. The market-rate units in River’s End Townhomes sold at $425,000 to $450,000, and the affordable units at $349,000.

The inclusion of both market and affordable units is also in keeping with the city’s preference for housing that serves people from diverse incomes.

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“We like to have a mix,” Phelps said. “We think it’s healthier.”

Officials worked closely with the surrounding neighborhood in planning the redevelopment. Ward 6 Councilor Fred Hogan, who represents West Lynn, said he and neighbors are happy with the changes.

“These are old parking lots that have sat empty for years,” he said. “They are making them into houses and bringing families into these homes, which is truly amazing. It’s brightened up the neighborhood.”

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.

This is what the site in West Lynn looked like before the River's End Townhomes were built.LHAND