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North Suburban News

Housing Development Proposed for Downtown Winchester

Sep 26, 2018 08:03PM ● By Dan Marra

WINCHESTER – With a goal of creating 200 housing units in the downtown area over the next 10 to 20 years, Winchester is hoping to take its first steps towards reaching that lofty bar at Tuesday night’s Planning Board meeting.

While there is limited land in town to create additional housing units, a proposal filed by Seaver Construction has the company demolishing two buildings in the downtown area – the Fells Hardware building as well as the adjacent building on 63 Vine Street. The new structure would be a 32-unit, newly designed building located at 654 Main Street. Fells Hardware would remain on the first floor, and the multi-story building will have 27 high-end units, and five affordable units – three for low-income families and two for middle income families.

The prospect of increasing the number of housing options for middle income families is something that Town Planner Brian Szekely fully supports.

“We’re finding more developers are building high-end condos because that would allow for more affordable housing,” he said. “However, we’re seeing a lot more high end and low end housing, and less housing units for middle income families."

The decrease in middle income families – households making between 80 and 120 percent of the area median income – is something John Suhrbier, a member of the Winchester Housing Partnership, has noticed as well.

“It’s considered the ‘missing middle’,” Suhrbier said. “In Winchester there’s really nothing middle and moderate income families can afford.”

According to Szekely, while he has received support from a number of residents in town, there are some who are concerned with the 56-foot high proposed building. The building would be twice as tall as the previous structure, but Szekely believes the affordable units are needed in Winchester.

“This structure has the potential to provide affordable housing to the people that work in town,” Szekely said. “The teachers, police officers, fire department men and women, the DPW workers – the people that work in town don’t currently have a lot of options in terms of housing in Winchester.”

The added benefit of this project, according to Szekely, would be the control it can offer the town. Currently, less than 2 percent of the housing in Winchester is considered affordable. For towns to have control over proposed 40B developments, they either need to have 10 percent of units affordable or be increasing its affordable units by one percent a year. In order to accomplish that feat, Winchester would need to create 40 affordable units this year.

“Residents agree that we need more condos in the downtown area,” Szekely said. “The area between Stop & Shop and the rotary is an area we targeted for an increase in housing and one that can have taller buildings.”

Tuesday night’s meeting is just the first step, and if it all goes well, Szekely is hopeful the project could move forward within the next few months.

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