Steve Bernier donates Five Corners house to Island Housing Trust

The Island Housing trust's newest property sits in the Vineyard Haven business district between a former Chinese restaurant and a car rental business adjacent to Five Corners.
Photo by Nelson Sigelman

The Island Housing trust's newest property sits in the Vineyard Haven business district between a former Chinese restaurant and a car rental business adjacent to Five Corners.

Updated Monday, 5:50 pm

A property purchase by Steve Bernier, owner of Cronig’s Market, intended to defend himself against the expansion plans of his chief competitor, Stop and Shop, has borne fruit for the Island Housing Trust.

IHT announced Saturday that Mr. Bernier had purchased a property at 6 Water Street in Vineyard Haven and donated it to the Island Housing Trust.

Philippe Jordi, IHT executive director, described it as one of the single largest affordable housing donations to the housing group.

Mr. Bernier purchased the house for $700,000 on Tuesday. The deed transfer to IHT was recorded Thursday.

The crumbling house sits adjacent to the former Golden Dragon restaurant building opposite the Black Dog Bakery and a short hop from the busy Five-Corner intersection.

Stop and Shop’s real estate company purchased the adjacent two-parcel property at 14 Water Street for $950,000 from IB Property Holdings, LLC, a Delaware-based company, on May 11, 2011, as part of an expansion plan.

In a telephone conversation Monday, Mr. Bernier said he moved on the property “to deal with Stop and Shop.” Mr. Bernier said he had heard that Stop and Shop was interested in purchasing that whole block. “So I bought the property, which was pretty much in the middle of their plans,” he said.

“I heard they made an offer to the lady who owned it, and they also put out feelers on Beetlebung, so they were on the move. I heard they planned to triple the size of the store,” he said.

“There are only so many apples in a bushel basket. After what I’ve committed to at this store, that would have been detrimental to my business.”

Mr. Bernier, who has a record of community involvement and philanthropy, said he did not want to do anything with the property. “I called the Housing Trust and they thought that [the donation] was a great idea, they were delighted with that,” he said.

“The Island Housing Trust is incredibly grateful to Steve Bernier for his generous donation, and looks forward to working with the Town of Tisbury to re-use this centrally located property for needed workforce housing,” Richard Leonard, chairman of the Island Housing Trust, said in a press release Saturday.

“The house is in very poor shape and will have to be torn down,” Mr. Jordi said in an email to The Times. “We haven’t developed any plans yet, but will be working with the town of Tisbury to explore possibly using the first floor as office or rental space for an Island non-profit organization with rental apartments or condo units above in the months ahead.”

Mr. Jordi said that rental apartments are typically administered by the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, but the Island Housing Trust would continue to own the land and ground lease it with affordability restrictions.

Based on the history of surrounding properties, any development in that location would likely trigger Martha’s Vineyard Commission review as a development of regional impact.

In a telephone conversation Monday, Mr. Leonard said that Mr. Bernier had the property under agreement for some time and called IHT to ask if the organization would be interested in it as a donation.

The transfer of the property was effected quickly last week. The deed contains a restriction that would not allow the property to be used in any aspect of the supermarket business or for any business that would compete with Cronig’s Market.

“It was transferred to us with the understanding that it would be utilized for affordable housing purposes,” he said.

Mr. Leonard said the property has many positive attributes. It is on town sewer, town water and within easy walking distance to public transportation and the business district.

“It is a great location,” Mr. Leonard said. “We are pleased to have the contribution. the part that is very expensive about housing is the sites and it is great to reuse sites as opposed to using up more open space. The fact that it is in a downtown location with all the services that the community brings to it makes it ideal. We are looking forward to working with the town to create what is in the best interests there, whether it is ownership, condos, townhouses or apartments.”

For more information on the Island Housing Trust call 508-693-1117 or go to www.ihtmv.org.