Energy, accessibility upgrades at Canton Valley Housing Development

FITCHBURG — Douglas Bushman, executive director of the Fitchburg Housing Authority, said it will be “the biggest construction project that the Housing Authority has undertaken in over 40 years.”

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday, July 12 for a wide-ranging project at the Canton Valley Housing Development that will include energy sustainability and accessibility improvements.

The 48-unit affordable housing complex on Valley Street (off Canton Street and Wanoosnoc Road) was built in the 1950s for World War I veterans.

There have been some upgrades over the years, including the 2019 replacement of old boilers with four high-efficiency boilers and water heaters that use 20% less natural gas.

Bushman said the latest round of improvements will include new sidewalks, new lighting, new windows, new roofs, “a nice sitting area in the back where the residents can relax, enjoy their friends and their family and their guests,” and the conversion of three units to make them handicap accessible. The complex currently has no accessible units, he said.

“That’s real progress for people who need it the most,” Bushman said.

The improvements are being funded through the state Department of Housing and Community Development’s Comprehensive Sustainability Initiative.

Nora Shull, project architect from Next Days Studios in Brookline, said that at first the proposal had a narrower focus.

The Canton Valley Housing Development, a 48-unit affordable housing complex in Fitchburg, was built in the 1950s for World War I veterans.

“It was limited in scope and targeted [building] envelope improvements and lighting replacement,” Shull said. “But as we got deeper into the design development and spoke with the Housing Authority, it became apparent that there were additional accessibility issues that also needed to be addressed.

“It’s very exciting to see that the project’s been able to incorporate all these improvements and expand into something more comprehensive,” Shull said.

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