A land trust is an agreement whereby one party (the trustee) agrees to hold ownership of a piece of real property for the benefit of another party (the beneficiary). The majority of community land trusts' successes depend on the cumulative effect of multiple small donations from within a specific community and larger funding from Community, State and Federal agencies. Sometimes these funding sources are coupled with the generosity of landowners to secure permanent protection for a parcel or multiple parcels of land.
By using the Community Land Trust model, Worcester Common Ground provides stewardship of Land Trust holdings in order to preserve scarce affordable housing and community resources and create innovative, safe, and secure housing opportunities for lower-income community members within the Central Worcester, Massachusetts target area. Specifically the unique mission of the WCG Land Trust is to remove land from the speculative real estate market forever. No other non-profit housing agency in Worcester has been charged with this stewardship responsibility. The unique means by which the Land Trust ensures the affordability of housing for perpetuity is by legal separation of the land from the buildings, and the use of the ground lease to control the resale costs of the housing units to future generations.
This two unit Catholic Worker House serves as a "house of hospitality" for homeless individuals. In August of 1989, the Catholic Worker House came to WCG because they were faced with a loan payment deadline that they were unable to make. WCG was able to assist by purchasing the land beneath the building in September of that year. The Catholic Worker House agreed to made flexible payments to cover debt incurred in the process and allowed WCG a lien on the building as additional security. This arrangement helped to preserve the house, ensuring that the property would remain affordable for years to come.
The former Abraham Fitz cottage at the top of the Castle Street hill is a large two family home that WCG acquired in the fall of 1994 from a real estate financing subsidiary of General Electric Corp. The mortgage of the property had been foreclosed after the building was set aflame in July of 1993. Rehabilitation of the project, which was financed by the City of Worcester's HOME fund and the Bank of Boston, was completed in 1995.
The former Yeaton residence was a four bedroom single family home that the family donated to WCG in the fall of 1994. The building had been vandalized while left vacant for several months. In August 1995 WCG sold the building with the owner occupancy and affordability protections in the ground lease to a local architect who bought and renovated properties in the Worcester area and completed the needed rehab.
This garden, a city-owned lot at Valley and Castle Streets in the midst of the Castle Street neighborhood served as a meeting place and garden center for residents. It is the host of experimental techniques for Urban Gardening and was recently profiled with the Gentle Lentil for its innovations in organic gardening. The local residents were concerned about the preservation of the open space and came to WCG, the recently formed Community Land Trust, in 1988. In September of that year the City donated the lot to WCG, who then leased it to the residents of Castle Street. The residents became the owners of the garden and were able to use it without fear of the land being developed. The residents agreed to pay WCG a small fee for any expenses incurred, but were ensured that the Castle Street Gardens will forever be a part of the Neighborhood.
This seven-year project was made possible by the persistent effort of devoted volunteers. The major expense for the construction was funded through Community Development Block Grant Funds. With the playground finished in 2001, WCG took on the responsibility of the long term care and maintenance of the playground, including "Community Planting" sessions to keep the area plush with colorful flowers. In addition, the Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Canter, in partnership with the Worcester Art Museum, a "Peace Wall" based on the mosaic mural outside the Art Museum was installed in the spring of 2002. Thanks to WCG's partnership with the Down Town Neighborhood Partners, Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center, All Saints church, Hawley Street Gardeners, and neighborhood residents, the "Community Build" continues to be an exciting asset in the neighborhood.
Worcester Common Ground, Inc. 5 Piedmont Street Worcester, MA 01610 USA508-754-0908
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