New proposal for 100 Bridge St. is a bait-and-switch

To the editor:

Tonight at 7:30, the GB Zoning Board of Appeals must decide whether the new proposal for 100 Bridge St is “substantially different” from the old proposal, which was approved. The clear answer is yes: because the new project goes from bad to worse. It’s a classic bait-and-switch.

The problem is not the valiant efforts of Community Development Corporation to remediate a brownfield: for that they deserve all praise. The problem is that CDC insists on stacking affordable housing on the worst pieceof the site, on a parking lot next to the town sewage plant — while reserving 6 acres of more desirable space for “future commercial development.” In other words, for profit. By now it’s clear the CDC is a lousy developer: for more than a decade they have tried and failed to find that magical tenant. Remember when the Co-op was moving there? Then it was retail plus corporate tenants, now it’s a nursing home – anybody with money!

However, one thing never changes — they keep shoving affordable housing into the gutter. At least the previous proposal showed an overall “campus” with greenspace (mostly parking, but still.)  But in the new plan, the housing will be wedged between two giant toxic berms which are fenced off for safety. No more “campus.” No more greenspace. No breathing room for families, children, recreation. No outdoor space for 42 units of housing.

This all looks bad, because it is. But it’s not too late. Tonight at Town Hall, the ZBA will decide whether this latest (fifth?) plan is still acceptable. The answer is no — this is substantially worse. Dense mid-rise housing that has lost its greenspace is not only not acceptable – it’s insulting.

The CDC needs to answer one tough question: why not devote all of 100 Bridge St. to housing for people, instead of speculating for profits? That’s exactly why our government gave them a $15 million grant: to build decent housing that sends a decent message.

Bobby Houston

Great Barrington