Welcome to Worcester Common Ground
- A Community Development Corporation

wcg-logoWorcester Common Ground, Inc. (WCG), a Community Development Corporation (CDC) was founded in 1988 in response to concern about absentee ownership of land and property, the high cost of housing, the displacement of families from their homes into shelters, and the fading dream of home ownership and economic opportunity for those living in the most underserved neighborhood of Central Worcester, Massachusetts. Our member-based organization is composed of land trust residents, concerned citizens, housing advocates, and community leaders. We are an open membership, not-for-profit organization run by an elected board of land trust members.

The mission of WCG is to promote and develop permanent and sustainable improvement in the neighborhoods of Central Worcester through affordable housing, community activism and economic development.  We act as a developer of last resort, rehabilitating abandoned housing and acquiring parcels of vacant land for new construction to provide area residents with affordable rental units, the opportunity to own their own home, and an avenue to contribute to an increased level of neighborhood investment, pride and stability. As WCG has grown as a CDC, we have come to understand the vital importance of implementing a sustainable and comprehensive neighborhood improvement strategy to support out affordable housing objectives. 

WCG engages in partnerships with other community organizations to address area residents' varied needs including public safety, youth involvement, recreation, community planning, and neighborhood business development. In order to ensure that our initiatives are successful, we encourage residents and partners to participate as community activists and stakeholders in creating a stabilized, viable and thriving neighborhood where there is opportunity for home ownership and quality rental housing, within a safe, affordable and family-friendly community.


Worcester Common Ground Staff and Board Members

 

WCG Staff

Our staff is highly qualified in each of their specialties and frequently collaborates to implement events or to get out a grant or project application on deadline. The stability that is reflected in the length of service has helped us manage even with the reduction in staff that was required in past years due to the financial challenges facing CDCs.

Jeshenia Luyando, WCG Rental Manager and Tenant Relations

Jeshenia joined us in March 2006. Her bilingual (English-Spanish) capability is complimented by her experience as a legal secretary and in social services for 10 years prior to her placement. She has expanded her responsibilities and, with equal proficiency, handles the function of office manager as well as her primary responsibility to keep our apartments in excellent condition and fully occupied. Her verification of income and status reporting to the state and city has secured us recognition as a 100% complete compliance organization - no small feat.

Ron Germain, WCG Facilities Manager

Ron joined us in April 2004. He is responsible for the upkeep of all of our properties. With 13 buildings to keep under control he has achieved our goal of maintaining the best homes in the neighborhood. He also handles all inspections, move-in, and move-outs and annual inspection of Section 8 apartments. Ron has over 20 years of construction and property management experience. He was the manager from one of our contractors on several WCG development projects before joining us.

Charise Canales, Community Organizer

Charise joined us in August 2014. She is responsible for door-to-door outreach in the Greater Piedmont neighborhoods, increasing the organization’s engagement with residents and businesses and building leadership opportunities for members within WCG. Charise supports WCG’s Community Land Trust leaseholders and rental tenants, manages the membership pool and supports a wide range of communication and marketing activities. A recent graduate of Clark University’s Master’s program in Community Development and Planning, Charise has been living and working in Worcester since 2009. Her past work includes a variety of projects in public health, social enterprise, community outreach and event planning.

Joel Feinberg, Real Estate Development Director 

Joel joined us in May, 2017, as our director of real estate development.  He comes to us after almost 40 years as a real estate attorney, the last 20 of which were with the firm he helped found, Hackett Feinberg PC.  In his law practice, Joel focused on work for community development corporations and non-profit organizations, as well as Massachusetts state agencies and institutional lenders, in community development and affordable housing transactions. He was often involved in multi-party transactions involving layers of public and private debt and equity and the use of governmental programs and tax incentives.

Yvette Dyson, WCG Executive Director

Yvette joined us in April of 2001; her work here has been described by our funders as among the best in the state. She handles construction management, project development and everything involved in getting our projects from conception to completion. After graduation from Simmons College, she continued her training as an architect at the Boston Architectural Center and as a licensed construction manager. Her attention to detail and broad understanding of construction and financing has resulted in the outstanding projects we have completed and are planning. Yvette was the Director of Development until becoming Worcester Common Ground's Interim Executive Director in 2012. She was formally appointed Executive Director in July 2013.

Worcester Common Ground Board of Directors

     Front row from left to right: Eddie Jimenez, Phil Stone, Lisa Stewart; Back row from left to right: John True, Robb Zarges, Jono O'Sullivan, Jeff Ortiz, Jose Reyes, Marge Purves; Not pictured: Arline Rosario, Ramon Borges-Mendez

WCG-CDC is governed by a Board of Directors of up to (18) individuals, 51% of whom must be neighborhood residents and all of whom are elected at the annual meeting. The composition of the board reflects the organization's commitment to developing resident leaders in the neighborhoods it serves.

  Jono O'Sullivan, President - Piedmont Neighborhood Resident & Business

  Marge Purves, Clerk - Piedmont Neighborhood Resident

  Alvara Gjylapi, Treasurer - UniBank

  Jeffrey Ortiz - Piedmont Neighborhood Resident

  Phil Stone - Attorney / Activist

  Eduardo Jimenez - Piedmont Neighborhood Resident & Business

  Ramon Borgés-Méndez - Piedmont Neighborhood Resident & Business

  Robb Zarges - Kainos Coaching and Consulting LLC

  Arline Rosario - Piedmont Neighborhood Resident

WCG has identified a range of needs that affect the community from basic public safety to the leveraging of strategic reinvestment of public and private capital. The following are key indicators of neighborhood instability that have been confirmed by WCG, its community partners and the City of Worcester's planning office:

Low Rate of Owner-Occupancy/Affordable Housing: Merely 11% of the target area's housing structures were owner-occupied in 1990, according to Census data. Nearly half (40%) of all housing structures citywide had the stability of an owner-occupied residence. As the 495 corridor becomes unaffordable, rents in Worcester increase. This, combined with an antiquated housing stock of triple-deckers, creates challenges for providing an adequate number of affordable units.

Abandonment & Blight: Abandoned and distressed properties detract from the economic and social capital of a neighborhood. The reclamation of these properties remains the highest neighborhood stabilization priority, as it returns vacant or abandoned land to the tax roles, increases the level of personal and economic investment in the neighborhood and helps reverse the trend of disinvestment in the community.

Family Transience - School Mobility: There is a highly transient rental population that resides in the target area. The Worcester School Department conducted a mobility study in 1994-95 to determine enrollment and transition rates for students enrolled in elementary schools. The two schools with the highest mobility rates were the Chandler Elementary School (53.7%) and the Elm Park Community School (60.1%), the two elementary schools that serve families living in the target area. These percentages reflect the number of enrolled students that did not complete a full year at the same school.

Safety & Aesthetics: Underlying social problems in a community manifest themselves in visible ways such as an increase in crime and poorly maintained housing. These symptoms of neglect and disfranchisement are threatening to a neighborhood and require short-term intervention such as clean-ups and community policing. However, these tactics must be combined with a comprehensive community reinvestment strategy in order to produce long-term results. In order to truly resolve the threats of underlying instability, the affected community must be involved at every level. WCG strives to engage as many residents as possible in each one of its initiatives.

Crime, Drugs, Trash: The result is that these underlying problems become visible and are exacerbated by the increase in crime, drugs, trash, and poorly maintained housing. Though these visible symptoms require short-term intervention, a comprehensive community reinvestment strategy is needed in order to have longer term results.

Housing Production/Improvement: Abandoned and distressed properties still exist in the Piedmont imageneighborhood.  In addition, sixty percent of the housing stock was built prior to 1924, compared to the citywide rate of fifty percent. Consequently, a large proportion of the existing housing inventory does not meet the current building code standards. The combination of disinvestment and the aging housing inventory creates a situation in which market values fall short of the level of investment that is required to bring the existing housing inventory up to up to building code standards. To compound the problem, many properties are vulnerable to the acquisition practices of certain investor owners who fail to make the necessary improvements even when rental income is sufficient to support them.

 

Worcester Common Ground and the neighborhoods it serves are overwhelmingly grateful to the following Foundations, Partnerships, Trusts, Funds, Corporations and Individual Donors for their financial support:

Grants:


Individual Donors:


Community Investment Tax Credit

Corporate Giving

 Funders/Lenders:

  • Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation (Bioshelter Construction)
  • Tides Foundations
  • Boston Foundation (Get Out The Vote)
  • Santander Bank NA
  • Harry G. Stoddard Fund
  • Country Bank
  • Fuller Foundation
  • United Bank Foundation
  • Webster Five Foundation
  • Lowe's Companies Inc.
  • Saint Gobain
  • Spencer Bank
  • KaBoom
  • Kuehn Charitable Foundation (thru CEDAC)
  • People's United Community Foundation
  • Greater Worcester Community Foundation
  •  Mia's Auto Detail
  • Erik Sossa
  • Dave & Chris Mandara
  • Joe Petty
  • Arline Rosario
  • Joe O'Brien
  • Sarah Dupere Ostro
  • Amy Shiah
  • T-Shirt All Day
  • First Church in Sterling
  • Andrew Varruzo
  • Edgardo Jimenez
  • Woo Juice
  • Knight Properties Investments LLC
  • Melvin Cutler Charitable Foundation
  • David Coffey
  • Plourde Family Charitable Trust 
  • Davis Square Architects
  • Phil Stone/Katie Green
  • John & Mary True
  • Johnson Structural Engineering Inc.
  • Sandra Rose /Joseph Bearak
  • Massachusetts Housing Investment Corp.
  • Gloria Hall
  • Houssan & Ogerholm
  • A. Wade Lawncare
  • BayState Savings Bank
  • Pro-Tech Extermination Services
  • Commerce Bank
  • Maloney Properties, Inc.
  • Eastern Bank
  • UniBank
  • R.C. Rheault Construction
  • Gloria Hall
  • Elizabeth H Wallace
  • Regional Environmental Council Inc
  • Quality Contracting
  • Central MA Area Health Educ Center
  • Sonepar USA
  • Webster Five
  • JV's Window Tinting
  • Family Health Center
  • Diane Gordon Consulting
  • Maloney Properties Inc
  • Lutheran Community Services
  • LUK Inc
  • Worcester County Horticultural Society
  • Barry Sullivan Media
  • Becker College
  • Saver Bank
  • Commerce Bank
  • WPI
  • MA Association of CDC's
  • Clark University
  • TJX Foundation
  • Curtis Construction
  • Worcester Community Housing Resources,Inc
  • Mediterranean Marketplace
  • UniBank
  • Lowes
  • Regional Environmental Council
  • Worcester District Attorney Office
  • Spencer Savings Bank
  • Pleasant St. Neighborhood Network Center
  • United Bank
  • Country Bank for Savings
  • WCHR Inc.
  • Webster Five Foundation
  • Saint Gobain
  • United Bank (Path Plus Program)
  • Fallon Health
  • TJX Foundation
  • Massachusetts Housing Partnership
  • Mass Affordable Housing Trust Fund
  • DHCD Housing Stabilization Fund
  • CEDAC Community Based Housing
  • Life Initiative
  • Mass Housing Investment Corp.
  • City of Worcester
  • Trustees For The Diocese Of Western MA



 

       Membership: 

    

 
  • Billy Ayala
  • Luis & Isalby Martinez
  • Griselda Rodriguez
  • Jacqueline Suarez
  • Eneida Pena
  • Tairy Cabrera
  • Mery Vargas
  • Brian Monteverd
  • Margo Valdes
  • Julio Rivera
  • Nurkis Felix
  • Gladys M. Guerrero
  • Ellie Gilmore
  • Maria Paredes
  • Jose Santiago
  • Jeannette Castellanos Beltran
  • Jose Jr. Hernandez
  • Estela Perex
  • Joe Petty
  • Arline Rosario
  • Mark Borenstein
  • Griselda Rodriguez
  • Yolanda Matias
  • Jono O'Sullivan
  • Jeff Ortiz
  • Alvara Gjylapi
  • Ramon Borges-Mendez
  • Esther Flores
  • Yvette Dyson
  • Charise Canales
  • Jeshenia Luyando
  • Ernest & Sarah Ostro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is an affordable housing crisis in Worcester. From 1980-90, more than 7,600 units of new housing were built in Worcester, but in the following decade, only 1,400 were produced. The vacancy rate at the Worcester Housing Authority is less than 1%, leaving few available units of public housing. Worcester CDCs produce approximately 100 units per year, whereas the City estimates that 400-500 units per year are needed. As the Greater Boston area and the 128 and 495 corridors have become overbuilt and unaffordable, development pressure has moved west. Once a bastion of affordability, Worcester housing prices have skyrocketed more than 250% in the past several years and new, high-priced developments are springing up all over the city. The dream of home ownership is becoming unattainable for the average Worcester family.

As housing prices have climbed, rents have followed, displacing many of Worcester's lower-income families. Middle-class families now occupy neighborhoods that have traditionally been the home of working-class families. These displaced families then move into the lower-income neighborhoods, in turn displacing low-income families. In response, some low-income residents move to Southbridge, which is more affordable, but has no public transit and few jobs. Others end up in the city's homeless shelters, which are now overflowing. In response to this crisis, area churches have formed the Interfaith Hospitality network, allowing their church basements and other large spaces to be turned into temporary shelters. While there is a movement afoot to establish an affordable housing trust fund, immediate action is needed to stem the flow of dislocation and combat the rise in homelessness.

Worcester Common Ground serves the lowest-income neighborhoods in the city. As housing prices and rents increase, the Piedmont and Elm Park areas have become a haven for low and moderate income families seeking affordable housing. Because of the increased demand, rents here are increasing, as well. The housing stock is more than 100 years old and much of it is in poor condition as a result of disinvestment. The neighborhood has suffered from illegal dumping and neglect, as well. The neighborhood also suffers from economic isolation; although it abuts the downtown corridor, there is a high rate of under- and unemployment among area residents.

As a community development corporation, WCG acts as a developer of last resort, rehabilitating abandoned housing and acquiring parcels of vacant land for new construction, which provides area residents with affordable rental units, the opportunity to own their own home, and contributes to an increased level of neighborhood investment, pride and stability. The entire city benefits as these properties are returned to the tax rolls. This work is augmented by neighborhood initiatives, which bring people together to work collectively on issues of concern and to contribute to making their neighborhood a better place to live.

Contact Us

Worcester Common Ground, Inc.
5 Piedmont Street
Worcester, MA 01610 USA
508-754-0908
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