From hardware store to housing?

Developers working on plan for 75 to 80 apartments for Vineyard workforce at Hinckley site.

Hinckley's Hardware in Vineyard Haven, which was sold in August for $2.3 million, is the proposed site for 75 units of housing. – Mike Sawyer

In what could be a game-changing development in Vineyard Haven, a development team is looking to build up to 80 units of housing, with 75 apartments set aside as affordable or workforce housing.

The development, which is in the preliminary stages and has not yet been filed with the planning board or the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, is proposed at the site of H.N. Hinckley & Sons Hardware, which was sold in August to Larkin “Barry” Reeves for $2.3 million. The property is located on 1.61 acres across Beach Road from the DeSorcy property, which is on the market for $8 million. The Hinckley property does not have the same restrictions as the properties on the north side, which under town zoning are required to have some marine purpose.

Michael Sawyer, owner of the Barn, Bowl and Bistro, is the project manager, Sam Dunn is the architect, and his son, Josh Dunn, is also on the development team, along with Michael’s father, Robert Sawyer, and, of course, Reeves.

“It’s a very exciting project,” Robert Sawyer, a longtime proponent of affordable housing, told The Times Friday. “We think it will make the most major change to Vineyard Haven I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

Emphasizing that plans are still not fully developed, Sawyer said the idea is to make the vast majority range from 80 percent area median income (AMI) to 150 percent AMI. “This is housing that’s going to be directed at working people — the teacher, the policeman, the people who work at the Martha’s Vineyard Times, the building inspector,” Sawyer said. “These people can’t find housing on Martha’s Vineyard, and we’re losing them.”

A town road is planned on the development property to connect Beach Road and Lagoon Pond Road. The hope is to ease the burden on Beach Road, Sawyer said.

Six separate units would be above 8,000 square feet of retail space on Beach Road. “Those units are going to address a housing need that no one talks about on the Island — that’s the empty nester,” Sawyer said. “I have a big house, my kids are grown, I don’t use a third of it. There are lots of people like that who would like to sell their home and not mow the lawn. We’re appealing to that market as well.”

Parking for the apartments, which could accommodate 100 cars, would be on the bottom floor of the units, he said. The property is located in a flood plain.

Solar panels will be incorporated into the design, as well as outdoor decks that would overlook Vineyard Haven Harbor, Sawyer said.

“To me it’s terribly exciting,” he said. “My passion is putting up affordable housing units that will make a real difference.”

There should be benefit to Vineyard Haven businesses, as well. “It really should be a shot in the arm for downtown Vineyard Haven, having all this housing here,” Sawyer said. “All across America we’re trying to bring people back to the downtown.”

Sawyer said it will be about two months before the development team will have plans to file. They are in the process of hiring a traffic engineer. “We have a lot of work to do,” Sawyer said.

Cheryl Doble, chairman of the Tisbury planning board, said she’s aware of the project scope.

“There’s some really positive things about it,” she said. “It’s a really big undertaking.”

Doble said she likes the idea that Sawyer is meeting with stakeholders and abutters ahead of time, and gathering feedback. “It think it’s great to do that early on in a project. It’s really helpful,” she said. “It helps us understand what we need to do going forward.”

An important aspect of the housing is not only that it will be geared toward the workforce, but that it will be year-round housing, Doble said. “That’s so important.”

The developers are also willing to listen to the town’s vision of wanting to connect properties and provide open spaces that allow pedestrians to more easily navigate the waterfront.

The property is not without its challenges, Doble said. “In addition to traffic studies, we’d have to have an understanding of impact on flooding, and it’s an area that’s vulnerable,” she said. “We need to understand these things, and can it be done in a way that serves the broader good.”


  1. Not a great location. Traffic is already horrible here and backed up all summer, sewage is a major problem, and its a flood zone. Great idea, but I would look elsewhere.

  2. Doesn’t the article start by saying 75 to 80 units ? Then it says 6 units above 8000sq’ of retail. It says up to 100 parking spaces, for housing or retail ? What is the sewer allotment for this property ? Not a well written article.

    • The article is specific whether 75 or 80 units and it says the 100 parking spaces are for the apartments. What is not given is how much parking for the retail and where would be that access.

    Somebody is taking a serious look at the critical problem of our housing crisis.
    Sure, there are a million details to be worked out.
    I say, let’s throw our support for this endeavor.
    One thing I like about this project is that there is a solid team of experienced developers, with a very positive track record of accomplishing projects that have been very beneficial to islanders.

  4. Always negative responses! I think it is a win/win and is a start in addressing the problem of housing! Come on! Help be part of the solution!!

  5. If you want 60 to 80 units and 100 cars you dont build it downtown near the water. You put it in the middle of the island where no one sees it and it blends in with the landscape and where there is lots of open space. This is a pipe dream and wont happen once the MVC and other regulators get a hold of it.

  6. Requiring future residents to access via Skiff Avenue and Lagoon Pond Avenue does not ease Beach Road traffic because the housing hasn’t been built yet. How will retail parking access, from Breach Road or around back by way of Five Corners?

  7. Whats wrong with what was there? It was the goto place for everything. Especially plumbing , Ace hardware, and lumber. Sad to see it go.

    • Hinckley went bankrupt. No on else has stepped forward to carry on that line of business. In that void the housing proposal is a great alternative.

      • I imagine their are a couple of franchises that would love to have it but those are banned on the island. We have to protect our local business.

    • redsox. I am a carpenter– the lumber yard had problems for years– first, the quality of wood was pretty bad.
      I used to buy stainless steel clamps and plastic fittings for my garden irrigation. They stopped filling the bins years ago.. And apparently, they had plenty of contractors who didn’t pay their bills..

  8. It would have been funny if it wasnt so sad. Trump clearly directed the investigation. It looked like nothing was investigated and the previous biased vetting stood. It was a joke.

  9. C’mon people. So quick to condemn. Robert Sawyer has a Stella reputation for developing on the Vineyard. Look how long it’s taken IHT. Finally someone’s stepping up to give them help. Let’s wait to see what’s proposed.

  10. Not so sure about this one– on one side you have really good people developing this idea. I trust their judgement.
    On the other hand– That area will be subject to chronic flooding in the not so distant future.
    North Carolina passed a law a few years back that stated municipalities could not consider future sea level rise as a criteria for denying development–Mass. is a bit more enlightened. My question is what is the plan when these buildings ( or at least the parking spaces) are below the high tide level in 50 years ?

    • Dondondon, the plan is that this proposed building would have made a profit on its investment long before 50 years or they wouldnt make the investment to begin with. As for your high tide theory, technology would have evolved long before 50 years to hold the so called fairy tale tide back. The Dutch would come and solve the problem. Much of Holland is underwater and long long ago the Dutch solved the problem. This plan wont see the light of day because the return on capital isnt there for low cost housing. Anyway dondondon by that time your agonizing about warming will be gone because you will be gone.

      • I recall there’s been a fair bit of water over roadways around Five Corners in recent years. And levees can fail; ask those hit by Katrina in 2005. Perhaps use Google for an image search on Vineyard Haven flooding.

      • Andrew– the world disagrees with you about sea level rise. And you are correct that we can build walls around our cities. But at what cost?

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