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Times change, and plans for 100 Bridge St. must change, too

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By Thursday, Aug 4, 2016 Letters 3

To the Editor:

Times change, and plans must change too. The original plan for 100 Bridge Street called for a complete, all-at-once development of the site, resulting in a complex that made basic sense as a whole, with affordable housing, market rate single-family housing and commercial development in a mixed use “village within a village.” However, it dates from more prosperous, optimistic times, and the Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire (CDC) is now faced with the need to phase the project slowly instead of building it all out. This reality calls for a change in plans, because the original vision, even broken into phases, looks extremely unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future.

The affordable housing consists of four-story apartment houses located on the least desirable part of the site, next to and overlooking the wastewater treatment plant. Whereas the original plan called for cleanup and development of the entire site, there is now a high likelihood that only the small portion of land for the affordable housing will be cleaned up, leaving a large, fenced and weedy brownfield on the other side. The designers of the proposed apartments have gone to great lengths to orient views, etc., but the fact remains that the project will be wedged between a sewage treatment plant and a brownfield. This will probably be the case for years to come, and is a recipe for an instant problem.

The foreseeable consequence of creating such undesirable housing is that the rest of the site will lose development value for single-family housing or even more desirable commercial uses, as no one will want to locate near what will be negatively viewed as a housing project. Development will be discouraged, not incentivized, as a result. The town will be left with two big problems, instead of one.

Great Barrington desperately needs decent affordable housing — there is no lack of agreement on that. The CDC has worked hard on plans for the site over the years, and deserves accolades and our appreciation for that effort. However, this project, as good as it may have been when first put forth, will now do little or nothing to really solve the affordable housing problem. It may even be a step backwards, by creating a housing project that no one really wants to live in, and which stigmatizes those who do. A major intention of the affordable housing law is to avoid concentrating the residents of such housing on the worst available sites, which no one really wants to do. The Zoning Board of Appeals would stand on very solid, common-sense ground by refusing to create a slum, the courts notwithstanding.

It’s time to rethink the entire project, based on the realities of 2016, rather than rushing the wrong project through to a very uncertain future. The well-being of the entire neighborhood, and this town, is at stake. Let’s support the CDC in finding an alternative solution that will really work instead.

Steve McAlister

Great Barrington

 



3 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Laury epstein says:

    Great letter, steve. It’s hard to believe that the select board, planning board and whatever other town boards are involvd in overseeing the development of 100 bridge street can approve the current plans. We need fresh ideas for that property, not overworked redrafts of past proposals.

  2. Nan WIle says:

    Thoughtful and reasonable letter. Brilliantly language’d. It’s compelling, so apt and brief. And, polite to both CDC and ZBA! Bravo, for that – I am angry and disheartened that the ZBA closed the hearing to o a room filled with people who showed up to voice concerns, I am not yet able to maintain a civil tone. Thanks, Steve. I’m impressed by content (and demeanor).

  3. Sharon Gregory says:

    Steve, thanks for providing both an aesthetic, economic and business perspective. Over the years, we have appreciated the removal of unsightly, burnt buildings. However, there is a world of difference between above-ground cleanup and below-ground remediation suitable for housing of any type.

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