Editorial : Wise decision
We applaud the Martha's Vineyard Commission's approval of the $5.1-million Bradley Square development project. Apart from some excruciating, nonsensical debates over possible conditions, the MVC members seen their duty and they done it.
The Vineyard's course is mostly set, and it is headed upscale. This project, well designed, multi-purposed, and destined to inspire a modest and sometimes neglected in-town neighborhood toward improvement, will serve as an example for other such neighborhoods in other Island towns. It is, after all, an example of multi-use development, mixing business and residential uses. And its economics benefit from an increase in density, which is, after all, the key to adding to the affordable housing stock anywhere on Martha's Vineyard. Which is not to say that subsidized efforts such as this - requiring as much as $1.7 million and perhaps more of donated money - or other similar undertakings elsewhere on the Vineyard will stanch the steady march toward higher property values and a narrower Island demographic weighted to older, wealthier, and seasonal residents and discouraging to younger, modest income, year-rounders.
The Bradley Square project is the unusual brainchild of an unusual joint venture by the Island Housing Trust, the Island Affordable Housing Fund, and West Tisbury builder John Early. Planned at the corner of Dukes County Avenue and Masonic Avenue in Oak Bluffs, at the edge of what is known as the Arts District, a modest neighborhood-generated effort of like-minded property owners, who are also artists, Bradley Square will include two market-rate and nine affordable housing units, as well as a community center and an office.
Sadly, among the most benighted reactions to the Bradley Square plan were those that cited either its size and consequent effect on the neighborhood as detriments, or its non-profit development team as a benefit.
The size of this project, when considered along with its careful design, is the great benefit. That it will effect changes in the development pattern of that neighborhood (and one hopes in development patterns in other Island downtowns) is a virtue to be celebrated. It is desirable that change will occur in this Oak Bluffs neighborhood and that this good idea will inspire others which will - it's true - lead to change, but change that will be revivifying.
And, to imagine and suggest that the change that must take place in the redevelopment of Island downtowns, including the addition of reasonably priced housing and expanded commercial space, must occur entirely with non-profit development organizations is to underestimate the size of the problem and overestimate the capabilities of the non-profit community. Plus, it is a silly failure to recognize the good ideas, the financial capacity, the great value, and the potential of for-profit development.