By John P. Muldoon at The Local News
ROWLEY — Is it any wonder that building affordable housing is so difficult to build when the state slaps an extra charge of $400,000 on your project?
But what the state taketh away, the state may also give, selectmen were told recently.
The news came in an update to the board by Kristin Carlson, director of real estate at Harborlight Homes.
She said a $14.8-million, mixed-use development opposite Market Basket on Route 1 is currently before the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) for permitting. Carlson said the state is likely to require major changes to the Route 1 traffic lights at Market Basket. A new left-turn lane into the project will be required, along with a crosswalk to the plaza, new traffic signals, and cameras, she said.
Although the extra work could cost $400,000, Carlson said there is a MassWorks Infrastructure grant program that could help.
“That’s a big cost for the project to bear,” she noted, but she added that Harborlight worked with the city of Beverly to get a similar grant for its Anchor Point development.
Only municipalities can apply for the grant, and she asked the selectmen to file an application on Harborlight’s behalf.
Carlson said Harborlight also wants to apply for a $300,000 community preservation grant.
The project is planned at 236 Newburyport Turnpike, which is the lot at the lights across from the Market Basket entrance on Route 1.
The developer, Harborlight Homes, is a nonprofit community development corporation. It will manage the property once built. Although the nonprofit was established 60 years ago, this is Harborlight’s first project in Rowley, Carlson said.
Called Windward Crossing, the project on the three-acre lot calls for the demolition of the existing vacant concrete industrial building. Harborlight is partnering with the Cusack family of Ipswich, which is funding part of the development philanthropically, Carlson said.
The project will include a group home with five bedrooms to house people on the autism spectrum. Another building with private condos will have three more residents plus a caretaker, Carlson said. There will be a 20-unit building with affordable units and supportive services for seniors, and another that houses a community center for all residents.
All of the affordable units will be targeted to people making 50% or less of the area median income (around $49,000) or less, Carlson said. Noting that Harborlight sees “a lot of need” for housing at that price, she described the units as “pretty deeply affordable.” Rents will amount to 30% of the resident’s gross income. Heating and cooling will be electric, and solar panels will be installed, Carlson said.
Harborlight got its last town approval in September of 2023 for a septic system from the board of health.
It is now applying to the MassDOT because of the changes needed to the state highway.
After that, the group hopes to start construction in the fall of 2024 or spring of 2025.
“I love this project. It’s amazing,” said selectwoman Deana Ziev.
“I love the design — it’s beautiful,” said chairman Clifford Pierce. “I’m frankly amazed that you’re going to get all this in that site.” “It’s a wonderful project. It’s a long road, I know,” he added.