Fuller partnership, city talk affordable housing Both sides attempt to connect Fuller, Middle Street projects together
This an artist’s rendering of Cape Ann YMCA’s proposed Housing at Middle Street project. The existing Patillo Building could be connected to the building in the center.
The proposal to build more than 50 units of recognized affordable housing on the site of the YMCA building at 71 Middle St. sits at the center of renewed negotiations between the city’s administration and Fuller Mixed Used Ventures partnership seeking to build a $70 million project on the Fuller School site.
The proposed Middle Street housing complex, which could only be built if and when the Cape Ann YMCA is able to open its planned new home on the Fuller property, is already under a development agreement between the Y and the nonprofit, Beverly-based Harborlight Community Partners. It would offer at least 53 housing units that would serve a lower-income population than the 30 units of affordable housing that would be part of the Fuller project if the Fuller partnership is held to the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance, city and partnership officials agree.
But connecting the separate projects poses a number of obstacles for the city as well as for the Fuller partnership that is the YMCA, Windover Construction, Sam Park & Company and the Dolben Company, whose proposed 200-unit, market-rate housing complex has been at the forefront of questions over the entire project and its impact on the city’s affordable housing stock.
“The benefit of tying the Middle Street piece to (the Fuller project) is that we would have more local control over it,” said James Destino, the city’s chief administrative officer.
If the City Council were to insist upon Windover and Dolben including 30 units of affordable housing on the Fuller site, the affordable units would be under Dolben’s control and could serve residents who earn up to 80 percent of the metro Boston region’s average median income, according to language in the city’s housing ordinance. If the affordable units connected with the Fuller site were those built on the site of the current Y, they would be built according to state and federal tax credit limits, which would mean a cap of 60 percent of the region’s average median income, says Harborlight Executive Director Andrew DeFranza. He said the Middle Street project would likely include housing for people with incomes down to 30 percent of the region’s average.
“My goal would be to build housing that can serve people earning $50,000 a year,” Defranza said. “That would serve the people I think we’re all trying to reach.”
Logistics, other issues
Windover CEO Lee Dellicker, who has been at the forefront of talks between the city and the Fuller partnership since the partners proposed to acquire and redevelop the Fuller site in November 2015, said simply connecting the Middle Street project to the Fuller proposal poses logistical issues, largely because any work on the Middle Street site could not begin until the Y has moved into its new Fuller home.
“If we were to succeed in this, would we have to also build the Middle Street affordable housing units before we could get an occupancy permit (as a completed project) for the Fuller site?” he asked. “That would obviously be a problem.”
The renewed talks between Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken’s administration and the Fuller partnership have come after the City Council’s Planning and Development Subcommittee referred the overall Fuller project application back to the administration in late January.
That move came after Lynne Sweet of LDS Consultant Group — hired by the city but paid by the partnership — found that Dolben’s 200-unit market-rate rental housing project at Fuller does not meet standards of the kind of “hardship” needed to allow for an in-lieu payment under the city’s ordinance. The still pending purchase-and-sale agreement between the partnership and the city, signed in October 2016, calls for an overall sales price of $5.6 million. The mayor has agreed to accept $4.1 million for the sale and steer $1.5 million into affordable housing development as an “in lieu of” payment from the partnership for not meeting the city ordinance’s demand to build 15 percent of any new units as affordable — in the Fuller case, about 30 of the 200 units. Dellicker reiterated that the partnership has always been willing to include the 30 units on site at Fuller — if the city is willing to renegotiate its sale price. Destino declined to say on the record this week whether the city is considering any such change, but had indicated previously the city would not renegotiate the price on an existing purchase-and-sale agreement.
While the affordable housing talks have held up the advancement of the project application at the council level — Dellicker and partner Park had both said last spring they had hoped to break ground in 2017 — city Planning Board Chairman Rick Noonan noted there are other questions to be resolved. Those include a commitment by the partnership to build and fund a $3 million sewer system to serve the Fuller complex, and questions regarding overall parking space.
“Of the questions we had posed,” Noonan said, “I’d say (the partnership) has answered about 15 percent of them. There’s about 85 percent left unanswered, and that’s a lot of work that needs to be done before we can make a recommendation with a straight face.”
A 30-day extension on the time frame for the Planning Board to render a decision – an extension agreed upon by both sides early last month – is due to expire this Thursday, and the board is expected to hear the applications for its review again at its meeting on March 15, Noonan said.
Destino and Dellicker both expressed confidence they will be able to agree on a proposal that will steer the project through the council to fruition.
“We’re talking about a lot of different scenarios,” Destino said. “We’re going to continue to work together, and I know Lee and I are both motivated and committed to putting something in front of the council that they can accept and that everyone will be proud of. This project is worth doing right.”
Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
What: Gloucester Planning Board to review applications for the Fuller Mixed Used Ventures project again.
When: Thursday, March 15, at 6 p.m.
Where: Kyrouz Auditorium, City Hall, 9 Dale Ave