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GA Blog: Smart Growth

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3.29.16 State Funds Assisting in Local Infrastructure Projects

Lower Millyard in Amesbury, MA

The Newburyport Daily News reports that Gov. Charlie Baker, who took office a year ago, wants to expand the popular MassWorks program as part of a five-year, $1 billion plan to rejuvenate communities still struggling to take advantage of the Commonwealth’s recent economic upswing.

Massworks is a program under the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development designed to help cities and towns upgrade their infrastructure. Governor Baker’s plan calls for borrowing $500 million over five years to boost funding for MassWorks by nearly 35%.  To date, MassWorks has parceled out more than $330 million in grants.

North of Boston communities - including Newburyport, Salisbury, Amesbury, Salem, Lawrence, Haverhill, Peabody, and Beverly - have received more than $42 million since the MassWorks program got underway. These projects include:

  1. Amesbury - a 1.6-acre site in the Lower Millyard quarter is now Heritage Park, where a private developer continues work on a multi-story complex of housing, office and retail space [pictured above].
  2. Haverhill - along the Merrimack River in Haverhill, a once-tired cityscape has been revitalized with a new boardwalk and parks, spurring private investment in a new complex of offices, storefronts and housing.
  3. Peabody - leaders plan to reconfigure traffic-choked Peabody Square by moving a Civil War monument and adding street lights, trees and crosswalks, in hopes of luring investment downtown. Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt said the money has been vital to the city’s downtown. “It’s helped make the downtown safer for pedestrians and more attractive,” he said. “And it’s paid off for us with significant properties being purchased by new developers who have exciting plans for the downtown.”

No match needed:  Andrew Herlihy, director of the Haverhill’s community development department, said an aspect of MassWorks that makes it so attractive is there are no requirements for communities to match the investment.  In addition to boosting MassWorks funding, Baker’s economic development proposal asks for $50 million for a separate MassDevelopment program that makes longterm equity investments in properties in “gateway cities” such as Lawrence, Methuen, Salem and Haverhill.

Previous local MassWorks grants:

  • Amesbury 2015:  enhancements to the Intersection of Route 110 and Route 150, $1,107,812, including signal upgrades, intersection modifications, and the construction of new sidewalks to Amesbury’s downtown. The improvements will allow the construction of Amesbury Heights, a 240-unit housing development, to begin in the spring.
  • Newburyport 2015: increased sewer capacity and sidewalk extension, $2,000,000, allowing Newburyport to leverage $4.45 million committed by the city to increase sewer capacity and extend sidewalks in the recently adopted 40R Smart Growth district. The infrastructure improvements will support a $16.5 million 80-unit mixed-use development located next to the MBTA commuter rail station and enable the future construction of 440 units in the 40R District.
  • Salisbury 2014: Salisbury Square Water System Improvement, $1,708,769, to upgrade the water distribution system in the town center. The replacement of existing water mains and the addition of new mains will enable the Spalding School site and 29 Elm St. to be developed into 42 housing units. The MassWorks award leverages $9 million in private investments for this project and creates opportunities for additional redevelopment in the area. 
  • Amesbury 2013: Lower Millyard Water Street Improvement Project - Amesbury’s Lower Millyard has been the focus of a significant economic development and mill revitalization effort in the downtown. The MassWorks award allowed for the realignment and addition of streetscape improvements to Water Street providing for increased pedestrian and traffic safety. The city voted to invest $5.9M in the relocation of the DPW yard, $1.5M for the construction of Heritage Park and Merrimack Valley RTA has invested $7M in its Transportation Center. The city estimated 289 housing units could be created in the Lower Millyard area.
  • Amesbury 2011:  In 2011, EOHED awarded a $1,250,000 grant through the MassWorks Infrastructure Program to reconstruct roadway infrastructure to support the development in the Lower Millyard section of the City of Amesbury. As the sole access to the Lower Millyard, Elm Street has numerous safety issues affecting the development of the area including roadway deterioration, lack of defined sidewalks, 90-degree turns, missing curbing, poor drainage, and increased traffic at severely restricted intersections. The improvements are critical to the Lower Millyard revitalization and will allow for the expansion of existing industries and the construction of new rehabilitated facilities.

Read the entire Newburyport Daily News article.

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8.5.13 Proposed New 30-Home "Pocket Neighborhood" in Salisbury

 Village at Salisbury Square in Salisbury

According to the Daily News, there is a new 30-home development proposed in Salisbury.  The project, “Village at Salisbury Square”, would sit on 5.94 acres, be accessed at 12 Beach Road behind Pat’s Diner, within walking distance to Salisbury Square.

This type of development is generically referred to as a “pocket neighborhood.”  Village at Salisbury Square would maintain 65% open space, allowing a number of small greens with abutting homes around the lot.

While in traditional subdivisions, a substantial portion of land is paved to accommodate roads, and houses abut the street as activities take place in backyards and on back decks; however, according to the article, in pocket neighborhoods, the concept is different.  Large front porches play important roles. In front of the homes, sidewalks link the dwellings, not streets.  Garages are incorporated into the development, but are located in the back, where they’re accessed off small alleyways.

The Village at Salisbury Square will hold 27 single-family homes and 4 duplexes.  They’ll range from 1,260-1,640sf. Twenty-six will be 3-bedroom units and four will have 2 bedrooms. The price range will be $290,000-$369,000.

This type of development is possible in Salisbury because of zoning created years ago in the Salisbury Square area, Hill said.  Most of this acreage is in the Village Residential Overlay District, with a small portion in the southwest corner in the Village Center District.  Approved by Town Meeting in 2006, both of these zoning districts surround Salisbury Square. The zoning allows more housing density on the land than the two-acre lot method.

Read the entire Daily News article.

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6.15.11 Hamilton Looks into Smart Growth Opportunity

Proposed Concord Riverwalk development in Hamilton

The Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle recently reported that Hamilton is looking into the possibilities of working with a local “smart growth” developer, Genesis Planners, Inc. The developers specialize in projects that focus on “locating development near existing town centers, facilitating walking, limiting sprawl, yet preserving open space and utilizing existing infrastructure.”

“Our research indicates that the majority of households in the U.S. are made up of one and two people,” said land developer Dan Gainsboro. After studying the work of a well known smart-growth architect, Gainsboro saw potential for his Hamilton lot and based his plans around one project in particular that consisted of 2-3 bedroom cottages.

Upcoming plans include Gainsboro and a real estate attorney to “assist” the Town with local cottage bylaws. The local planning board will be holding public meetings June 14th and 28th.

Read the entire Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle article.

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6.1.11 MBTA Bus Route Coming to Danvers and Possibly to Beverly Commuter Rail Station

The Beverly Citizen recently reported that a new MBTA bus line may be coming to Danvers and possibly the Beverly Depot commuter rail station. The proposed route would focus on several stops throughout Danvers, as well as the North Shore Community College.

The MBTA had once offered a similar route, however, it was cancelled in 2002 for low ridership. State Rep. Ted Speliotis (D-Danvers) believes that the new route would be a success due to new developments and expansions at Danvers State Hospital, Conifer Hill, and the North Shore Community College.

The bus would also have stops at the Essex Agricultural and Technical School, Saint John’s Preparatory School, Essex County Corrections in Middleton, the Danvers Group Home, CAB Health Services on Middleton Road, Danvers Plaza and Beverly Hospital at Danvers.

Read the entire Beverly Citizen article.

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3.16.10 Smart Growth Development in Newbuyport/Newbury

The Daily News is reporting that after a few years of being on hold, talks are back on between the MBTA, Newburyport and Newbury for a mixed use, retail and residential development which would be known as Little River Transit Village.

The MBTA recently notified Newburyport of their intent to release 4 surplus parcels of their property around the commuter station in an effort to encourage Newburyport and Newbury to create a Chapter 40R Smart Growth Overlay District, which has growing in popularity across the state with nearly 30 cities and towns approving such plans around commuter rail facilities.

To read more about Chapter 40R Smart Growth, please click here.

Read the entire Daily News article.

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12.2.09 Smart Growth Affordable Housing with Retail in Downtown Haverhill

Hayes factory - coutesy of Tim Jean, Eagle Tribune

The Eagle Tribune reported that construction has begun for redeveloping the Charles Hayes Building on Granite Street in downtown Haverhill, near the train station.  The Boston Archdiocese's nonprofit Planning Office for Urban Affairs is converting the old factory to include 57 one- and two-bedroom homes — 33 apartments that will be reserved for low- and middle-income renters, and 24 that will initially be rentals and then converted to condominiums within 5 years. 19 of the condos will be sold to middle-income buyers and 5 will be market-rate units.

This is the third major factory-to-housing conversion in downtown Haverhill; the first that will feature retail space on the ground floor. The developer's agreement with the city calls for 3 retail businesses on Granite Street, which faces the Washington Street train station and is across from the Railroad Square property, where the city is building a $10 million parking garage this summer.

The property at 14-44 Granite St. is actually two historic mill buildings — a six-story building that was constructed in 1894, and a seven-story addition built in 1911. Various manufacturers set up shop in the buildings over the years, including an electrical equipment maker, photo finisher, and millwork producer.

According to the article, Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini said the city's adoption Chapter 40R – smart growth - played a major role in the agency choosing Haverhill for the housing project.

The city used the law to create a 53-acre zone downtown where building housing is faster, easier and potentially less costly than outside the zone. Proposals in the district are no longer subject to reviews by multiple city boards and they cannot be stopped by the City Council. Under the old zoning rules, proposals to convert large factories to housing required a special permit from the council. Now, a housing proposal in the zone only needs to meet pre-approved design standards and undergo a review by the council.

The Granite Street project is the 2nd large housing development since the council approved the 40R district. The other is the $75 million, 305-unit Hamel Mills Lofts by Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland. The $39 million, 146-unit Cordovan complex on Locust Street was the 1st of the large factory-to-housing conversions.

Read the entire Eagle Tribune article.

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