The announcement from Gov. Charlie Baker's office that the state will provide housing subsidies and tax credits for the Harbor Village project on the site of the long-shuttered Cameron's Restaurant was drawing rave reviews Friday from the developing agencies and city leaders alike.
All expressed confidence that the funding announcement will allow construction of 30 units of affordable housing mixed with some first-floor retail space at 206 Main St. to begin early next year.
“We are so thrilled to receive the necessary funding to move ahead with construction," exclaimed Peggy Hegarty-Steck, executive director of Action Inc. "(This is) a big win for Gloucester."
Action is partnering with the Salem-based North Shore Community Development Coalition to build the project, which has been on the drawing boards since 2015. Meanwhile, the Cameron's restaurant building on the site has remained boarded up.
Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, who backed the planned development early on and has led a push for more affordable and workforce housing in the city, hailed the governor's announcement Thursday. The state will be providing $80 million in subsidies and $38 million in tax credits to support 28 affordable housing and mixed-use projects around the commonwealth, including Harbor Village.
"This announcement allows us to move forward with a critical housing development," the mayor said. "We’re excited about this project taking place in the heart of our city, and are grateful to Action Inc. and North Shore CDC for their perseverance."
Mickey Northcutt, executive director of the nonprofit North Shore CDC, said Friday he has not yet received notification from the state as to how much his agency and Action Inc. will receive. They have been seeking funding support and tax credits through the state's Department of Housing and Community Development, and had missed out on one round of funding.
The two nonprofits teamed up to acquire the property for $975,000 in 2015, and gained local approval for the project from Gloucester's Zoning Board of Appeals in 2016.
The Harbor Village project is designed to not only provide affordable housing, but to bring new energy to a central part of the city's downtown.
"A vibrant downtown is made for people, is made vibrant by their presence, and this project will propel that," the mayor said. "We believe this investment will draw people downtown and will be a catalyst that spurs economic growth."
"I think it's wonderful," Northcutt said. "We're very excited to be moving forward, and I think it's going to be a wonderful building for Gloucester."
Plans for the four-story building at Main and Elm streets call for 10 single-bedroom units, 17 two-bedroom residences and three with three bedrooms each, Northcutt said Friday. The proposal calls for 30 parking spaces, meeting a city mandate of one per development unit, as well as a property management office, bike storage, and a small gallery space.
Northcutt said the funding — which will come from a mix of seven state bond accounts and federal HOME funds, according to a press release — should allow for a construction start early next year, with a year to 14-month construction period to follow. Given the mix of funding sources, the governor's office did not break down how much any of the specific projects would be getting.
The state backing means the Cameron's project construction will come as Gloucester continues to make strides in addressing its affordable housing crunch. As documented in a "housing production plan" largely drafted by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in 2017, Gloucester needed 434 more multi-bedroom housing units and 192 new single-family units by 2020 to meet projected demands.
The Fuller School site redevelopment will include 200 rental housing units of which 30 will be recognized as affordable. Plus, the city's deal on the Fuller sale also calls for up to 50 affordable housing units to be built by the Beverly-based Harborlight Community Partners on the Middle Street site of the current YMCA once the Y moves to new digs being built at Fuller.
Northcutt said he hopes the Harbor Village project will now be on a solid track for a 2021 opening.
"But right now, we're going to try to close on the construction and start as soon as possible," he said. "It's great to be moving forward."
Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or email@example.com.