To the Editor,

WHICH TO CHOOSE?

For years, Manchester has failed to provide enough affordable housing.  Now, we must address our deficit.  How?  Will we solve it ourselves, or look outside?

Our Selectmen can endorse a proposal from Needham developer Strategic Land Ventures (SLV), or instead withhold their endorsement and let this project compete head-to-head with the locally-developed alternative: the purchase of 1-3 Powder House Lane by North Shore Community Development Coalition (NSCDC).  SLV has won wide and deep community opposition.  NSCDC has won wide and deep community support.

Both projects are racing for recognition.  One of the two will receive State recognition first.  The State will determine which one, looking closely at our Selectmen’s decision. Between these two differing projects, the town’s future hangs in the balance.  

Place:

SLV plans to blast off the top and one side of Shingle Hill to construct a steep, narrow, curving driveway almost a half mile long, inhibiting entry by ambulances, trucks and the disabled.  SLV itself describes the project as “less safe.”  The site, surrounded by conservation land, isolates residents from the rest of Manchester.

NSCDC intends to purchase an existing multifamily complex in the heart of the town. The property is in excellent condition and needs little renovation. The purchase poses no environmental risks.  The project integrates people of all incomes in Manchester’s center.  

Presence:

SLV has provided three different site plans without explaining the differences between them. Each plan entails monumental engineering for 157 units and 226 cars, with rampart-like retaining walls towering 65 feet over School Street.  When the noise and dust settle in 2025 or later, 30-35 “affordable” units would be available, priced for people earning 80 per cent of area median income or more. The original plan cost $70 million; the most recent plan’s price tag looks higher. SLV’s designs, finances, insurance and even legal documents are murky and ever-changing.  Yet SLV wants the Selectmen to commit to it.  

NSCDC intends to make 29 existing units permanently affordable under State law.  These brick buildings behind Seaside Cycle are fully three-dimensional.  NSCDC’s project would add about the same number of affordable units as SLV’s, but put no additional cars on our streets and no further burden on our infrastructure.  The rents are affordable to people earning around 50 percent of area median income.  The project costs $3.9 million, and will likely close, fully financed, within six weeks.

Purpose:

SLV is in business to earn a return for itself and its investors.  It is a new venture which has not completed similar multifamily developments.  SLV is unabashed in its pursuit of profit. NSCDC is a Salem-based non-profit serving low- and moderate-income people on the North Shore.  Its mission is to ensure that all people have a safe, affordable place to call home.  Over its 40-year history, NSCDC has built and acquired more than 400 apartment units.  Preserving Powder House Lane as permanently and truly affordable is part of its mission. It’s also completely consistent with our local Housing Production Plan. 

Which of these two projects do you believe warrants endorsement?

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

William R. Cross, Manchester