Morgan Woods housing plans occupancy in May
Anyone who hasn't ventured off Edgartown Road onto South 12th Street recently is in for a big surprise, where the street ends and opens into Morgan Woods, a whole new village of attractive homes. Yes, homes.
Martha's Vineyard's first large affordable housing project looks like anything but what one might expect of "a project." Even in its unfinished state, with muddy roads, no landscaping, and units in varying degrees of completion, one can envision how attractive the complex will be when it is completed this summer.
"The residents of Edgartown expect an attractive development," Alan Gowell, chairman of the Edgartown affordable housing committee, said during a recent tour provided for The Times.
Every apartment in Morgan Woods has a front porch that faces a commons in the middle
of each building cluster. The porches will allow the tenants to watch their children at play and provide a way to get to know their neighbors. Photos by Ralph Stewart
"Thirty-one weeks and 80 percent completion," he said as he watched one of the last modular units being hoisted by a crane onto its foundation. The project's construction phase began in June with clearing of the 12-acre woodland site. Occupancy by the first group of tenants is planned for May, with full occupancy expected in July, several weeks ahead of the original schedule.
The 60-unit, $15.7 million development was officially named by the town selectmen last week "Morgan Woods" in honor of Fred B. "Ted" Morgan. The former selectman and chairman of the affordable housing committee spearheaded the development in 1998 when he pushed the town to purchase by eminent domain a 175-acre wooded municipal parcel between Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and West Tisbury Road.
In 1999, the town placed 118.7 acres of the land under conservation restrictions held by the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank. The remaining 57 acres were set aside in two parcels for future municipal uses. In 2001, voters at town meeting designated 12 acres of the southern parcel for affordable housing.
This corner bedroom has plenty of light, baseboard heating, and a closet. It will be carpeted as will all bedrooms and living room and dining areas in the units.
After public hearings and meetings, the town submitted a final proposal to the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) for a special permit as a development of regional impact (DRI). The MVC held its first public hearing on the project on May 20, 2004.
On July 22, 2004, after much wrangling over issues such as traffic, density, and environmental concerns, the MVC voted unanimously to approve the project, along with a hefty list of conditions. Two months later, the town signed a right-of-way easement with the Vineyard Golf Club, which allowed the town to run sewer lines through the golf club property to the development.
Now the long-awaited development is almost a reality. The complex of 21 buildings is spread out generously over the cleared land and arranged in three clusters with a commons, or green, at the center of each. The design is based on a traditional New England village that developed around a farmhouse and a barn and then added other buildings, Mr. Gowell explained.
The "barn" buildings, to be painted a shade of dark red, as yet to be determined, serve as a focal point for each cluster. They house three two-story townhouses. Next to the barns are the "farmhouses," which will be the only units with painted clapboard siding on the two-story portion. The rest of the buildings will be sided with natural cedar shingles.
Chart provided by TCB
Each of the two or three apartments in a building has a usable front porch looking out toward the central common and each has a private patio looking into the surrounding woods. The arrangement was designed "in an effort to build a sense of community, so people could see their children playing in the front, and still have a picnic in the back," Mr. Gowell said. "We think the scale is small enough so people could get to know their neighbors."
No two buildings in a cluster will look exactly alike. The five building styles are arranged in different combinations of one-story ranches and two-story townhouses of one-, two- or three-bedroom units. "We want a variety (of houses) - like a normal neighborhood," Mr. Gowell said.
Each apartment will have a cement patio and a tool shed in the back. Extra storage will be provided, but it hasn't been determined how that will be accommodated. Each building has a partial basement that will house the heating units and crawl space.
The apartment interiors have a spacious feeling created by ample windows and open floor plans for most with adjoining living, dining and kitchen areas. One of the three-bedroom handicapped units feels extra spacious with its wide doorways and hallways to accommodate wheelchairs.
The units will have refrigerators, ranges, dishwashers and carpeting in all rooms except the kitchen and baths, which will have solid vinyl tiles in a modern checkerboard design, according to project architect John Winslow of Winslow Architect Inc. of Cambridge. Other amenities will include ceramic tile in the entries, solid wood cabinetry and fully laminated counters in faux-granite finish. A space with utility connections is cut out in each unit near the bedrooms for a washer and dryer. A model unit will soon be available for viewing.
The buildings in Morgan Woods must be Energy Star compliant, following federal guidelines for windows, heating, hot water and insulation. Inspectors will check to make sure the units are in compliance.
The modular units, which have been arriving on the Island by barge every Friday for many weeks, were built by Keiser Industries of Oxford, Maine, and are being assembled by a large group of workers from Williams Building Co. of South Yarmouth. Williams also built the Vineyard's elderly housing complexes.
As soon as the houses are unwrapped from their plastic covering, the workers hustle to get the shingles on the roofs to protect them from the weather. Mr. Gowell noted how hard and fast the building crews have worked.
TCB of Boston, which stands for The Community Builders, is the general contractor, lease-holder, and management company for the project. TCB, which started in the 1960s under another name by building a public housing complex in Boston's South End. The company is now the country's largest non-profit affordable housing developer with a $40 million annual budget.
The company has built 274 affordable and mixed-income housing projects in 14 states, as far west as Chicago and Louisville and south to North Carolina, and it has also completed public housing transformations. It is currently managing 7,000 units in more than 90 developments.
TCB holds a 99-year lease on the property from the town and has totally funded the construction and development through various funding sources, including a $4.9 million private mortgage, $3.5 million in state grants and the rest through subsidies and federal low-income housing tax credit equity raised through private investors, according to Beverly Gallo, TCB project manager. Financing sources for this project include MassHousing, the Affordable Housing Trust, and the Housing Stabilization Fund.
"TCB makes enough to operate the property and pay the mortgage," Ms. Gallo said. Because of the company's not-for-profit status and the tax credits, it is only meant to break even, she said.
TCB will serve as the rental and managing agent for the property. It has set up guidelines for the housing applicants based on federal, state, and county regulations. The units will be assigned to families of varying incomes, ranging from under 30 percent to 140 percent of Dukes County's 2006 median income of $68,300.
The town's only costs connected with the project include an appropriation of approximately $400,000 to build or add on to streets connecting to the housing site and to install town water mains and wastewater connections to the edge of the site, according to Mr. Gowell. Those street improvements included an extension of South 12th Street and connecting both ends of South 10th Street to provide access to the site. Mr. Gowell said he expects 10th Street will be paved in the spring.
The project was approved with one access road, but the town has assured the neighborhood that it will continue to look for other means of access, Mr. Gowell said. Another access road may eventually connect the development to West Tisbury Road through Metcalf Drive, he said.
"The key to affordable housing is access," he said. "It's fairest to have multiple accesses so one neighborhood doesn't take the brunt." However, he added that the residents of 12th Street have been "terrific" in supporting the project.