Sewer next issue for Fuller project Partners hope to break ground in fall
Courtesy photo/An artist’s rendering of the proposed Fuller School site development.
An agreement calling for building 30 units of affordable housing within the 200-unit complex planned for the Fuller School site is being hailed as a key breakthrough that can move the entire $70 million Fuller redevelopment project forward.
But city officials and leaders of the Fuller partnership seeking to close on their purchase of the 10.6- acre site acknowledged Wednesday there are other issues to resolve
before partners Windover Construction, the Cape Ann YMCA and Sam Park & Company can put shovels in the ground to build a new Cape Ann Y, the 200-unit housing complex to be managed by the Dolben Company of Woburn, and 25,000 square feet of additional retail space for Park.
Under the new agreement, the city will accept $4.1 million as the sale price for the property, while the Fuller partners will include the 30 affordable housing units on the Fuller site, a bone of contention for months. The city also agrees to provide the partnership with $475,000 in federal brownfields environmental grant money to continue cleanup at the site, and to provide support for a planned 50-plus unit affordable housing project to be built at the Y’s current 71 Middle St. home once the Y moves into its new and expanded building at Fuller.
While the agreement bridges an intense debate about affordable housing, it sets the stage for tackling other issues before the Fuller partnership can get its special permit, close on the purchase, and break ground.
One issue is the need for a potential $3 million sewer project that would serve the Fuller development, including the housing complex, and deciding who would pay for it.
“I don’t really view it as our responsibility to repair and upgrade a city utility when we’re going to be paying user fees for it,” said Windover Construction CEO Lee Dellicker, who hammered out the revised housing agreement after several weeks of talks with city Chief of Administration James Destino. “But we need to first find out technically what the (sewer) needs are.”
Planning Board Chairman Rick Noonan, agreeing that the sewer issue looms as the next major hurdle for the Fuller project, noted that there are also questions about parking, green space and more. He, Destino and Dellicker said the city and the partnership may pursue state MassWorks grants for at least partial utility funding. Similar grants were used to improve water and sewer service to the Fort
neighborhood during development of the Beauport Hotel Gloucester, also built by Windover.
The agreement on affordable housing was forged Tuesday. Destino delivered it to the City Council on Tuesday night, which referred it to its own Planning and Development Subcommittee for approval next Wednesday as an amended project application. The agreement resolves the sticky issue of including affordable units on the Fuller site — rather than the partners’ bid to make a $1.5 million “in lieu” payment to steer past a city mandate that 15 percent of any new housing units must be deemed affordable.
“It’s been a long road,” Dellicker said Wednesday, adding that he would now like to break ground on the project in the third quarter of this year. “I want to push this thing forward as fast as we can — time is money, after all. So we want to push for closing and to try to get started as quickly as we can. But there are things to do.”
Jobs, revenue, housing needs
The overall Fuller site development is projected to generate an added $750,000 annually in city tax revenues, approximately 200-plus jobs during the demolition and construction phases; and more than 100 new jobs on an ongoing basis, according to partnership figures.
The affordable housing units will be built privately with pricing aimed at residents who earn up to 80 percent of the median average income in Greater Boston.
The agreement drew praise Wednesday from David Houlden, executive director of the Gloucester Housing Authority, who said he and the GHA board are glad to see the city stand by its 15 percent affordable mandate for new housing and holding the Fuller group to including the 30 units on site.
“At 80 percent of (the average median income), they’re not quite as affordable we we’d like to see,” Houlden said, “but this does now create a new type of affordable housing in
the community — the kind of workforce housing we need for two adult family members who are working, school teachers, and others who may not be able to find housing and yet want to be part of the community.”
Houlden noted that the city’s commitment to the 71 Middle St. housing proposal — to be built by the YMCA under its own agreement with the Beverly-based Harborlight Community Partners — holds immense community potential.The units there, to be funded through state and federal housing aid and tax credits and other means — would serve residents who earn 30 percent to 50 percent of Gloucester’s median income, identified in the city’s housing production plan as around $60,000.
“That is the population we want to be going after,” he said. “So all of this is promising.”
Destino said that, for all the satisfaction over resolving the dispute over the affordable units at Fuller, the city’s commitment to the Middle Street project is a key component of the agreement.
“It’s nice get the whole project back on track, but the project being introduced by the YMCA on Middle Street is, to me, the most satisfying. That’s what makes this a true win-win.”
Destino conceded that there were times during their talks that he and Dellicker “had our doubts” about a housing resolution.
“When you’re dealing with a municipality, a nonprofit (the YMCA) and a for-profit business, it gets complicated,” he said.
Council President Paul Lundberg, who said during last fall’s campaign debates that he thought the city would get the affordable units on the Fuller site through negotiations,
said Wednesday he never doubted the city and partners could break through their housing barrier.
“The reason I never wondered is this project is good for the city, it’s good for the partners — especially the Y — it’s just a good deal for everybody. My experience with negotiations is that, if it’s a good deal, people will find a way to get it done.”
Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or email@example.com.