Steps in the right direction

2

The principals involved in a proposed mixed-use development on Beach Road were quietly meeting with stakeholders about their project — kicking the tires to gauge reaction and seeking feedback for what will and won’t work.

They weren’t ready for this proposal to go public, but they also didn’t shy away from talking about it when The Times caught wind of it.

Robert Sawyer, a member of the development team, stressed that the plans are preliminary, and there is a lot of work to do before the project is actually filed with regulators several months from now.

But that hasn’t stopped a few naysayers from stepping in and suggesting the project’s demise before it even gets off the ground.

The project is being proposed for the property that currently houses Hinckley & Sons Hardware. Hinckley’s has had some financial problems in recent years, and Barry Reeves purchased the 1.61 acres in August. Reeves is working with Sawyer and Sawyer’s son, Michael, who is the project manager. Sam Dunn, an Island architect, and his son, Josh, are also working on the project. It’s a solid group, passionate about the Island’s need for affordable housing.

If your first inclination was to pick it apart, you may be part of the problem. Yes, there are still a lot of things to be ironed out — traffic, sewerage, and yes, the fact the the development sits in a floodplain — but these are all things that can and should be worked out as part of the process. Let’s give it a chance to actually get into the process, and for there to actually be plans before we start dismissing obstacles as impossible to overcome.

One of the things we’ve heard, for example, is that this isn’t the location for that type of housing, and instead it should be in the middle of the Island, where it will blend in with the surroundings. What better location is there? It’s close to public transportation, and is within walking distance of downtown Vineyard Haven’s many stores and restaurants. Location, with the exception of coming up with a way to raise the buildings, isn’t among the many hurdles to clear.

So far, none of the criticism seems to arise from NIMBY-ism, which is what we typically hear when affordable or workforce housing is in the works. In this case, the private developer is talking about building as many as 75 apartments for Island workers. The mixed-use development would also include a 6,000-square-foot retail component with top-of-the-shop housing, separate from the workforce apartments, for empty nesters. There is little doubt, with the Island’s population aging and the changing demographics, that empty-nester housing is also a growing need on Martha’s Vineyard.

We’re not ready to put our full support behind this project — there are far too many unknowns at this point to just blindly support it. But it is clearly a step in the right direction, and it is encouraging that a private developer is committing to build year-round housing for teachers, police officers, and other workers.

Let’s figure out how we can help make it happen in a way that benefits everyone involved, instead of looking for ways to discourage it.

And while we’re talking about affordable housing, it’s worth giving a round of applause to Island Housing Trust for its Scott’s Grove development. If you haven’t seen it yet, the West Tisbury affordable housing development, which has nine apartments of varying sizes, is a gem nestled in the woods of the Edgartown–West Tisbury Road.

The best part about Scott’s Grove is the partnerships that were formed to make it happen — from the donated land from Susan W. Scott to the $1.4 million kicked in by West Tisbury’s Community Preservation committee, to Island Housing Trust’s fundraising, and to a state grant that helped put the project over the top.

Meanwhile, Tisbury learned this week that it will receive a state grant to pay for septic systems for an IHT project in Vineyard Haven.

These are great examples of what’s possible with private-public partnerships. We need to encourage more of them.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Since I am one of the ones who showed skepticism I will respond. Business experience and some common sense plus knowledge of the islands extreme regulatory predisposition tells me this plan won’t live. It has to be philanthropic and subsidized because it won’t be profitable and it has to pass multiple layers of scrutiny by various agencies. The developers may have an ultruistic vision but the hurdles will not be overcome. What is wrong with people showing skepticism? If I were to advocate for a McDonalds in West Tisbury I would be laughed out of town. No let’s not figure out how to make it happen in this spot but in a workable spot so it will happen. In the meantime Mr Reeves the buyer is hopefully concerned about return on investment being greater than the cost of capital.

    • Andrew– for once I agree with you. On the point of showing skepticism you are correct. Now is the time to ask the questions. You are especially qualified at this, as you are often skeptical about anything that may help people or wildlife out. I also think you actually have a pretty good business sense.
      But sometimes, it’s not only about the money.

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