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The Concord Housing + Redevelopment’s Reasoning Behind The Green Street Project
Ari B. Pollack
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners,
Concord Housing and Redevelopment Authority

The Concord Housing and Redevelopment Authority ( CH+R ) is a quasi-public agency dedicated to developing, operating and managing decent, safe and affordable housing for individuals and families around Concord. The CH+R manages over 250 units of public housing, offering shelter to those who may not be able to arrange it for themselves. In addition, the CH+R manages and administers workforce housing and housing vouchers allowing more individuals and families to live in privately owned apartment buildings and complexes.

Recent press coverage of the CH+R ’s Green Street project has raised a series of questions and created misimpressions that deserve clarification. The CH+R hopes that responses to these questions and clarification will provide a different perspective, accurate information, and some useful background. We have addressed each question below.

Why did CH+R select the Green Street location?
The location and setting of the Green Street property is ideal for CH+R ’s mission and clients. A significant percentage of the CH+R ’s resident clients do not drive or own cars. The property is centrally located and within walking distance of the CH+R ’s two largest apartment complexes. Also, for those resident clients who drive, the property has adequate space for on-site parking, offers short-term parking on the street, and is adjacent to a municipal parking garage. The Green Street setting, while close to downtown, offers considerably less traffic congestion, close proximity to City Hall and the Police Department, and reserves the downtown storefronts for the placement of retailers, a condition useful for Concord’s economy and convenient for its residents.
Moreover, the CH+R considered the displacement of the three existing residential apartments, but also observed that the immediate area had experienced a conversion to commercial uses (as allowed in the district by ordinance) and that interested purchasers would be unlikely to upgrade the apartments for continued residential use. CH+R just opened 25 new housing units at Parmenter Place and is in the process of creating 11 new housing units at our Crutchfield Building.

Why is CH+R proposing to demolish the existing building?
What about historic preservation?

While we recognize the importance of historic preservation, and accept that the existing building may have historic attributes, such interests must be balanced against the needs of the owner to develop functional, accessible, and cost-effective space. To date, consultants advising CH+R have opined that the existing structure lacks accessibility for persons with disabilities, lacks energy efficiency, lacks a suitable foundation for commercial use, and would require a complete overhaul. Moreover, CH+R ’s need for a functional office space, with confidential client space, means that the interior of the existing building would have to be completely remodeled, as the existing residential layout is not conducive to mere adaptation.

Why hasn’t CH+R invested in detailed studies of the existing building?
CH+R has relied upon preliminary opinions from qualified consultants. Most recently, however, the Planning Board made clear its desire to review a study of the issues and options in more detail. To continue with its application, the CH+R must, and will provide, the Planning Board with the information it has requested. This information, however, comes at an expense, and as responsible stewards of CH+R ’s resources, it had been our hope to conserve such expenses. Nonetheless, we respect the Planning Board’s desire to investigate options in a more comprehensive manner. To respond in good faith, the CH+R will commission and fund such a study.

Is there time for the Planning Board to table the Green Street matter?
Like other realty transactions, the CH+R ’s purchase agreement includes a fixed timeline for closing or canceling the deal. The timeline affects the refundability of deposits, the need to obtain final approvals before conducting a closing and the date upon which the sellers are free to void the contract and offer the property to others. The purchase agreement states a closing deadline of March 17, 2011. The Planning Board intends to revisit the Green Street application on February 16, 2011. Assuming the Planning Board approves a site plan that evening, statutory appeal periods (and/or the filing of an appeal) would push the closing beyond the March 17, 2011 deadline. Thus, while there is adequate time for the Planning Board to table the matter until February, the ensuing appeal period does create a legitimate time concern. Having said this, the CH+R has invested considerable (albeit budgeted) resources in pursuit of this project, and can explore an extension of the agreement to allow for more time. The cost or even the availability of such an extension is not known.

Why did CH+R decide to withhold the purchase price of the Green Street property?
CH+R sought to keep the sales price private because disclosure would harm the sellers’ ability to negotiate with others in the event the sale is cancelled. The Concord Monitor sued to require CH+R to disclose the price. CH+R argued that a requirement of pre-closing disclosure would impair the CH+R ’s ability to effectively negotiate future land purchases. A superior court judge sided with the CH+R , ruling that the purchase price could be redacted until at least after the sale. Specifically, the judge found that “because CH+R ’s ability to negotiate land purchases is crucial to its mission, it as well as the sellers, has a strong interest in not disclosing [price] information until after the sale is completed.”

What is CH+R ’s position on the matter?
The CH+R remains hopeful that members of the Planning Board will maintain their objectivity and that the project will be approved in an acceptable form. CH+R will conduct a complete study of preservation alternatives and determine cost estimates for the various options. Ultimately, we understand that a balance of private and public policy interests will benefit all parties and allow the best possible project to move forward. As we push towards such a balance, the CH+R would ask that the need for functional space, energy-efficiency and development costs be part of the discussion and be fairly considered.