December 31, 2008

Stop Barney Frank

First it was the banks. Then it was the car companies. Now Barney Frank, after lossening the requirements for mortgages which has led to the sub prime mortgage melt down and ensuing real estate market stall out, wants to bail out developers of affordable housing.

Click here for the entire story in the Boston Globe. That right 10 Billion, not million. Do you think any of these 31 stalled projects in Massachusetts are in his neighborhood? Great comments in the Boston Globe story.

Thanks Dewey!!

December 30, 2008

EPA Grant

EPA has given the South Worcester Neighborhood Center monies to clean up the former City Builders location and the future home of Southgate Place. Click here for the press release. It even refers to the project as being 19 rentals and 8 townhouses (with open green space?), but I digress.

Since the South Worcester Neighborhood Center is a non-profit, they do not have to pay this grant back. After completion of the clean-up, however, South Worcester is to transfer the cleaned up property to City Builders LLC, a for profit entity, of which they are to be a 51% owner.

Senator Jahn, what do you think of this?? Lets assume you have a piece of property that needs to be cleaned up, just call a local non profit and offer then 10,000 if they:
  1. take title to the property for $100
  2. have the non profit apply for an EPA grant
  3. after they get the monies and do all the clean up
  4. take title back for $10,000

Think the legal term that comes to mind is referred to as "self-dealing".

December 29, 2008

Southgate Place Time Line

January, 2006

Initial proposal stongly supported by neighborhood
  • 25 owner occupied units
  • 13 condos
  • 12 townhouses
  • 17 (68%) affordable

January, 2007

Neighborhood starts asking alot of questions and becomes quite concerned

  • 21 unit apartment building
  • 11 owner occupied townhouses
  • daycare center
  • not sure of the affordability requirement

January, 2009

Neighborhood does not support

  • 25 unit apartment building
  • no owner occupied units
  • no day care center
  • 100% affordable

In three years, we have seen a proposal for 25 owner occupied units (13 condos and 12 townhouses) with a 68% affordability requirement be transformed into a single building of 25 apartments with 100% affordability requirement. I challenge anyone (anonymous) to contradict any of these facts.

Southgate Place Proposed Rents

There are six Section 8 units, that go with the project not the tenant (1 one bedroom, 4 two bedrooms and 1 three bedroom)
  1. one bedroom 830
  2. two bedroom 1009
  3. three bedroom 1206

There are nineteen other units (2 one bedroom, 15 two bedroom and 2 tree bedroom).

  1. one bedroom 550
  2. two bedroom 710
  3. three bedroom 800

There are income limitations on the 19 units

  1. household of one can earn up to 32,380
  2. household of two can earn up to 36,900
  3. household of three can earn up to 41,250
  4. household of four can earn up to 46,140
  5. household of five can earn up to 49,860

If you make over these income limits, you can not rent one of the 19 units. Please note rents include heat not eletricity.

The thing that bothers me about this schedule is lets take a look at a young working couple, who have not bought a house but need an apartment. If they make over $36,900 combined, they can not rent an apartment here.

December 28, 2008

Better Comment

Here in Springfield some of us recognize it is always about the money and not about truly helping those who need a hand up - not a hand out. Warehousing the poor keeps them poor and stuck. The only ones making out are the developers and their non-profit supporters. Their money comes from US, the taxpayer, via government funding. We are fighting this travesty in Springfield. You can fight it in Worcester. Go online to and contact the group. It has taken them months and months to get media coverage, but hot dang, are they persistent and organized! Keep up the fight Worcester.
2:19 PM

December 27, 2008

Anoymous Comment

Been busy, but I had to post this anonymous comment:

the best thing about this article is that it goes againgst EVERYTHING everyone on this site has said about low-mid income housing! Thanks for posting. Integrating income levels IS the key to a vibratnt neighborhood. Im just not sure what the motivation was for posting this. If anyone things that Longhill Gardens, at well over 200 units compares to City Builders at 30 units you are dead wrong. Longhill was segregating, CB is integrating. Its just too bad the neighborhood gave so much opposition to the original plan. CB would have been much mcu MUCH better if it was mixed income as originally proposed. The neighbors (as always) had to fight a great proposal to get what they wanted, and ended up with the opposite. Oh well. still, though, 30 units of lo-mid income housing is still not "warehousing" and will overall be a positive thing for Canterbury ST.

You got to love this post. I love these guys who defend the project then post anonymously. For the record the neighborhood strongly supported the original plan which called for 25 owner occupied townhouses, of which 17 or 68% were for low to mod income. Let me stress this again. This original proposal had the neighborhood support!!!

It was only when this original proposal were replaced by a single 25 unit apartment with 100% low to mod income was when the plans were opposed. How is this integrating? Lets for arguements sake, say a professor at Holy Cross or a machinist from a local manufacturing company making 100,000 per yeat wants to live at Southgate Place, they do not qualify and will be turned away.

How can anyone say 25, not 30 units, of low to mod income housings is not "warehousing"? For the record I do feel Longhill Gardens does in fact compare with City Builders. What difference does the number of units make, whether it be 200 or 30. They are the same projects, based on the same model financed with tax payer monies. The only difference is the number of units.

New Sidewalk Ordinance

First of all, let me say I always shovel my walks and it really bothers me when other people do not shovel their sidewalks. Not only is it dangerous but it shows no respect to your fellow neighbors not to shovel your sidewalks. In other words I thought the original idea was a good one.

Last week on this blog an anoynymous commenter complained how the sidewalk near my building was blocked and that I should clear the walk. Problem was, as I explained, was that the parking lot next to my building is not owned by me and that it is up to the owner of the parking lot to clear the walks that abut his property.

Today, sure enough, I got a warning on my front door that I am in violation of the new ordinance.

December 23, 2008

Direct Air Picture

Thanks Rob

Springfield Forward Website

July 28, 2009: Springfield Forward member George Pappas speaks with WWLP reporter J. Cashman. Springfield Forward voiced opposition to the proposed redevelopment of Longhill Gardens into subsidized low income only housing.

Much has been said about our advocacy for a better option at Longhill Gardens, so here it is in our own words: Springfield Forward believes that the warehousing and segregation of the poor in high density low-income projects is not only mean spirited, it defeats the very purpose of helping those who need it most. Crime flourishes in high density low-income projects because criminals prey upon the most vulnerable in our society, and as crime flows outward into the surrounding City, the residents of such projects are further isolated, stigmatized, disempowered and disenfranchised. We need to do better than that.

Integrated neighborhoods where residents come from ALL socio-economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds, develop a sense of community where neighbors help neighbors and look out for each other. INTEGRATED NEIGHBORHOODS = STABILIZED NEIGHBORHOODS = GENUINE COMMUNITY. Integrated neighborhoods waste less financial resources. Once you stabilize a neighborhood, crime goes down. Once crime goes down, resources are used more productively and a base for economic development has been created. Springfield Forward opposes using $20,000,000 of OUR TAXPAYER MONEY to warehouse and segregate those in need while enriching the developer and bankers who feed at the government trough. Springfield Forward believes we need to take our time, rethink this project, and come up with something better where everyone wins: the City, the community, and especially those who most need our help.

December 22, 2008

WinnCompanies and Wilkerson

I am telling you low income housing development is BIG BUSINESS. Check out the ties between Wilkerson and WinnCompanies:

Boston Globe

Jamaica Plain Gazette

Springfield Forward

Check this out, click here!!

There is a group in Springfield realizing the very same thing that we are!!! Take a minute and check out their fight against a low income project in Springfield called the Longhill Garden Condos by WinnCompanies:

The Republican

The Springfield Intruder

Do you notice the trends. It is all about the money and it has nothing to do with what the neighbors want.

Southgate Place Update

Nothing we can do. It is a done deal. Although none of the abutters, I am one of them, want a 25 unit building for low income residents. People have to understand this has nothing to do with the needs of the neighborhood. THIS IS BIG BUSINESS!!!!

It is all about the money and nothing else. It is just that simple. The saddest part about this low income housing business is that it takes advantage of the neighbors that are the least organized, since they can not stop the project. Believe me this project would not be approved on, for example, Whisper Drive, but dump in and Main South--who is going to block it??

Truth be nobody can block and you can expect more of these developments to keept coming in the neigborhorhoods that can not defend themselves.

December 20, 2008

Week-End Flights


  • 1st flight went off on time
  • 2nd leg, ORH to Sanford running a little behind (30 minutes).
  • 3rd leg. Sanford to ORH ran 60 minutes behind.
  • 4th leg... ORH to PGD is off the ground and 90 minutes late behind.


  • 1st and 2nd flights have taken off, but riunning about an hour behind right now. oot
  • not sure what happened with the 3rd and 4th flight.

This was good news and may still be... Anyone know how the last two flights went? Even if they were cancelled, that is o'kay since flights were delayed and cancelled going into Logan. People understand cancellations in this situation.

December 18, 2008

New Airport Director

From the Telegram yesterday, click here.

I am going to reach out to him for a blog interview. Any questions that you would like asked, post in comments.



December 16, 2008

Power Is Back

Sorry for the lack of posts but no electricity at my house (Holden) or my mothers (Tatnuck Square). It seems like I have just been driving back and forth across the city to the hotel in Auburn. By the way there are some 4 hotels within a 1/2 mile stretch in Auburn and 3 of them are relatively new. I know the Mass Pike exit is right there, but do you think the low commercial tax rate may have prompted hotels to build here versus in Worcester?

I am back!!!

December 13, 2008

Net New Revenues

This week the Special Finanace District will have alot of "net new revenues" this month. For those of you on the west and north side of Worcester, you know what I mean. Complete devastation in my neighborhood in Holden I simply do not see how there will be power at the earliest the middle of this week.

Yesterday I started making calls to hotels, starting with the Crown Plaza near my office. There was not a hotel to be found but I got lucky and remembered the new Holiday Inn in Auburn and got one of the last rooms. At check in, there were people walking to the counter looking for rooms who were then referred to Dayville, Ct and they took them.

Hope everyone is well.

December 11, 2008

Anonymous Comment

Here is a post from anonymous:

Anonymous said...
Thursday's flight from Punta Gorda arrived in Worcester on time despite the freezing rain and zero ceiling. Plane was de-iced and took off again on schedule. What now "doomsayers"?

This is soo stupid at soo many levels where do I start. First, we all know who this is so why does the anonymous blogger post his name?

Second. Just because someone disagrees with something does not make them a "doomsayer". Nobody is a bigger supporter of the airport, but suggesting a policy whereby bus transportation is provided to Boston in the event a plane can not land at ORH is not only practical, but good business and may convince someone to fly out of ORH.

Thirdly one of the reasons ORH has not succeeded is because we do not have someone like the Airport Director at Rockford out front selling the airport, instead we have silence and the occasion "anonymous" comment.

December 10, 2008

Allegiant Air

They just became the 2nd airline to start service to Punta Gorda, the other being Direct Air to ORH. They will be flying twice weekly to Greenville SC and Knoxville, TN. We should stay in touch with Allegiant.

How is Allegiant doing?

Allegiant Air, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Allegiant Travel Co. (ALGT: News ) Wednesday reported a 9.8 percentage points increase in November load factor. Traffic during the month increased, while capacity recorded a decline.

November traffic of Las Vegas, Nevada-based Allegiant Travel increased 1.1% to 302.84 million revenue passenger miles from 299.47 million revenue passenger miles in the comparable period a year ago. Capacity, however, declined 10.3% to 348.06 million from 388.02 million in the prior-year period.

November load factor increased 9.8 percentage points to 87.0% from 77.2% in the year-earlier period.Departures during the month showed a 2.6% decline at 2.82 million, compared to 2.89 million in the same month of the prior year.Scheduled service passenger traffic rose 1.9% to 279.65 million from 274.50 million in the same month a year ago.

Meanwhile, capacity measured in available seat miles dropped 10.6% to 311.25 million from 348.07 million in the prior-year month. Load factor was up 10.9 percentage points at 89.8%, compared to 78.9% in the year-earlier month.The company recorded a 7.9% increase in passengers traveled during November, while departures declined 6.7% from the same month last year.

ALGT closed Wednesday's regular trading at $39.20, up $0.41, on a volume of 0.49 million shares.

December 09, 2008

Wallace Civic Center

Admittedly this is much smaller then the DCU Center, but I read this story today. There renovation project cost 2.5 million, while the DCU is slated for 25 million which we all know will be 30 million. How will we pay for this? The extra "net new" revenues from the special downtown district, as well as a hotel on Plantation Street, is suppose to spin off enough "net new" revenue to pay the debt on 25 million?

This needs to go the way of the Skybridge and the City of Worcester needs to consider a long term leasing or outright sale of the CDU Center and let the new owner or leasee make their own improvements. This is exactly what Fitchburg, throught the college, is doing. Below is from the story:

College officials hired FMC Arenas, based in Pembroke, to manage the Wallace Civic Center on a temporary basis, then sought a request for proposals from firms looking for a long-term contract. Mr. Antonucci said college trustees will be discussing a proposal from FMC tomorrow for a 25-year pact. Trustees have been pleased with the work done by FMC, the president said, and the lease includes a substantial reinvestment in the building itself

December 08, 2008

December 07, 2008

Nemeth X-mas Airport Story

Click here for story. Wow.

  • "Nasty attempt by a Boston Television to malign ORH." Reporting facts is considered a nasty attempt to malign? If you asking me it was nothing but fair and accurate. In fact it could have gotten in much more detail.
  • "Confusion involving flight cancellation due to bad weather". I still am not sure why the flight was cancelled was it really bad weather then where? Was it the winds in Florida or the visibility at ORH. Then could it have been the flight crew had logged in too much time?
  • "Negotiations aimed at taking over the agency are still on track." The first 5 year contract that ended July 1, 2004 was suppose to end with MassPort taking over ORH. The second 3 year contract that ended July 1, 2007 was suppose to end with MassPort taking over ORH. Since that time we have had three 6 month extensions of the current (MassPort pays 79% of operation deficit, Worcester pays 21% and 100% if the debt service) that was suppose to end with MassPort taking over ORH. Now it looks like there is an additional two years being tacked on and it is suppose to end with MassPort taking over ORH. How can nine and half years to date with two more years planned be considered "on track".
  • "Advisory board with a regional representation." Maybe I do have a chance?
  • "Current system has long been outdated." Nine and half years this system has been in place with at least two more to go and now we find out it is "fraught with difficulties".
  • "The role of the Airport Commission itself has been in limbo". Again nine and half years laters with at least two more and we find this out?

This column should have focused on three things:

  1. Discuss arrangements that have been made by Direct Air in the event a flight can not land at ORH, but could land in Boston. A true "act of god" fliers understand, but when flights are able to land/take-off from Providence, Hartford, Manchester and Boston but not ORH, people do not understand or accept. A policy whereby a bus would be paid for by Direct Air or ORH that would transport people to and from Boston in this even would help sell more tickets at ORH should be instituted.
  2. We should put out an RFP for the entire airport and solicit bids for long term lease or outright sale. Nine and half years of negotiations is neither acceptable nor "on track" and ORH will fall through the cracks as MassPort looks into taking over the MassPike, 2.5 BILLION of big debt debt and the Ted Williams Tunnel.
  3. Virgin America (kudos to Harry). It is great Direct Air has brought service to ORH, but the big target here is Virgin America. Not only more flights, but how about leasing the airport to them and convincing them to make ORH their base of operations on the East Coast.

December 05, 2008

Southgate Place

You may think my last post was a joke, but it was not. If you take a look at the Southgate Place project this is an essence exactly what is happening except that the developer is not even buying the land, the South Worcester Neighborhood Center is supplying the land. Upon completion of the this project the partner in this project with South Worcester, who is having all their expeneses paid from the $7,000,000 projected cost, will be a 49% owner.

Not a bad deal. Word gets out on this stuff and even more developers of "affordable"housing will flock to Worcester.

December 04, 2008

Jahn and I Start a New Business

We have begun a new business to help non-profits raise money, here it works:
  • we find a struggling non profit that needs money
  • we partner with them to buy a parcel of land at our expense
  • we then apply to the City and State looking for grants to build low income housing using the non-profit as the front guy
  • we then get letters of support from the politicians
  • work with the city to get the appropriate variances, sidewalks/streets repaired by the city, permit/water/sewer fees waived
  • eventually we get all of our funding of which 90% are grants, since the units must be rented to low to mod income peopler for 20 years, pay ourselves back for the land purchase as well as any other incurred expenses of course
  • big ribbon cutting to announce the project
  • we can move property into the non-profits name to get EPA grants that we do not have to pay back.
  • big ribbon cutting when the project is done

We owe very little to the bank since most of the monies were grants, get all our up-front money as well as incurred expenses back, pay a mgmt company to handle the day to day problems, but here is the best part. We split the profits from the rentals with the non-profit 50/50!!!

It is a win for us since in the end, we have nothing invested in the project and get half the profit and the non-profit entity is happy since they have a new stream of income. On our way to the bank each month we garner awards as great humitarians, versus the greedy profit motivated developer.

Everyone wins!! Except the City of Worcester, but who is counting.

Accepting ideas for the name of our new company. Please note will even take monies from large corporations for naming rights.

December 03, 2008

NRSA Transfer

Check out item number 9.39 item C from last night City Council. The sume of 100,000 of unused NRSA funds being transferred to Main South NRSA (Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area) for 93 Grand Street.

Paul, myself and others (Laurel from Banknorth--President, Andy from Serrato Sign, Rich Kazarian and Artie Mooradian) had been doing alot of work on the Chandler NRSA and have had several successes:
  • Facades on Chandler/Pleasant (Suney's, Bahnan, Alan's Lock, Roland's Office) to name a few think there have been 7 in all
  • Helped people with home improvements up to 15,000
  • working on Assumption coming to MLK
  • Video camera systems for businesses
  • clean up crews on Chandler Street during the summer
  • amongst other projects

In other words, we have achieved some level of success and it is too bad that $100,000 was not transfered to projects like these. Instead it was transferred to 93 Grand Street. What is 93 Grand Street?

You guessed it Worcester's number 1 growth industry--more low income housing. In Worcester all roads lead to more low income housing.

December 02, 2008


Why couldn't we have bused people at ORH to Boston, flew the Sanford plane to Boston, unload the passengers, put them on the bus, bring them back to ORH and then load the people on the plane to fly to Punta Gorda?

Direct Air Cancellation Update

Click here for the story. The flight was cancelled because of visibility and freezing rain at ORH. Why were flights not cancelled at Bradley, TF Green, Manchester or Boston? This really worries me. If you ask me the weather obviously was not good, but really how bad was it Sunday?

What is worse is the attitude of the CEO, Judy Tull. It is the second week at ORH, which has not had a very good track history, and a reporter from the Telegram (Lisa Welch) is one of the people stranded. If I was the CEO and the reporter got me on the phone, I would be issuing travel vouchers and provide food and lodging. Think of the good public relations this could have created, if Direct Air had taken care of the passengers in Sanford and Worcester??

This is an awful way to run a business. Now I read that the people working the counters are hired from a Ohio based company called QuickFlight. The call center is not their employees, the people working the counter are not their employees, the plane and crew are Virgin America. Other then Judy and Ed, how many employees does this airline have?

Bottom line is that we need high loads on these flights and a story like this, which is deserved, hurts the airport. Last thing we need.

December 01, 2008

Good Comment

I up to Worcester last week on Direct Air and was supposed to fly back tonight. Tonight's flight was cancelled due to poor weather along the east coast. I'm very impressed. The plane was beautiful, it was clean, roomy and was a comfortable flight. It took me 15 min to get from my home in Punta Cana to the airport and 15 minutes to get from Worcester airport to my daughter's house. Tonight, the flight home was cancelled until tomorrow due to weather in Florida and along the eastern seaboard. The staff at Worcester could have just told us the flight was cancelled and that we were on our own. On thier own accord, they contacted a local hotel and worked out a deal for stranded passengers...service does not get any better.

See you in Florida

Sunday Afternoon

The third (Sanford to ORH) and fourth (ORH to Punta Gorda) legs were cancelled yesterday. NOT GOOD!!!! Why? Reason given--weather.

Makes no sense. My concerns about their lack of capital and aggressive growth plan may be coming home to roost. This is not good news at all for ORH and I will try to find out more today..

A plane left Sanford this morning (Monday) at 7:55AM to take these people back to ORH and will most likely pick up the people waiting in Worcester and bring them to Punta Gorda.

November 30, 2008

Jahn Comment

Gabe the dirty little secret is that Main South re development is more to benefit Clark than anyone else...and Clark even has a so called "government relations" person who I believe even serves on the school committee. One of his persons jobs is to make sure that main South is re-built to Clarks liking. Main Souths make over is primarily all about Clark and secondarily about the neighborhood & the city. Clark is supposed to "share" their new Main South facilities with the city at large, but I'll believe that when I see it.

Clark is supposedly a "partner " of sorts in re-making Main South....the only problem is the remake of Main South has been done for the most part with our tax dollars from Washington and to a lesser extent dollars from Beacon Hill and city hall.The problem now is that this remake of Main South has spawned all these non profit CDC builders whose only objective is the continued building their own fiefdoms of low income housing. We have:

  • Main South CDC
  • Matthew 25
  • Worc Common Ground
  • Worc Community Housing
  • S Worc Neighborhood Center
  • Others?

We have even had outside consultants tell us that we need to curtail/reduce the production of low income housing by non profit builders.....again another recommendation to the council that falls on deaf ears.All these non profits are raising funding from our tax dollars to inundate the MS area with densely built, intensive land use low income housing. This is not a sustainable business model as the city grows and moves forward.

We have 35% more low income housing now than is mandated by state law, meanwhile our suburban neighbors are raking in the businesses & middle class people who are fleeing the city b/c of the negative effects of too much low income housing. FWIW, low income people have little or no discretionary, disposable income. For the millionth time, all this low income housing all pours students into the school system at $11,900 per head.I could go on & on...........

people are probably getting sick & tired of my redundancy & repetitiveness.......the bailouts of the future are going to be urban municipalities who have been overly burdened with low income people.......which burden the municipalities have brought on themselves. Main South is going to be nothing more than an accumulation of small Great Brook Valleys in future years and the titans of the CDC's will have long since left the area.

November 29, 2008

Virgin America

Harry was right!!! Upon the annoucement of Direct Air to ORH, Harry was excited about the fact that Direct Air leased planes from Virgin America. His theory was that this would be a great way to show Virgin America our airport. By the way Harry has maintained for two years that a European based airline may be interested in an airport like ORH.

Today I was checking on the status of a flight today and typed in Direct Air as the airline, it did not work. You actually have to type Virgin America and it dawned on me --Harry was right!! For all practical purposes it is Virgin American servicing ORH in a Direct Air wrapper.

Now lets for a second assume that Virgin America likes ORH. We need to get Sir Richard Branson on the phone and discuss with him the possibilities of leasing ORH long term to Virgin America and making this a base of operations.

November 28, 2008

Southgate Place

Not only is this project getting funds from the City of Worcester (believe they are HOME funds), but we are getting grants from the Commonwealth and Federal tax credits. Although the project is costing $7 million, in the end the loan that has to be paid back will be in the $600,000 to $1,000,000 range. The rest of the monies do not have to be paid back as long as the 25 units are rented to low to mod income residents for the affordability period (believe it is twenty years). In other words, if a professor from Holy Cross wants to live there, he (or she) would not qualify.

This project will not be mothballed. If it was a conventional private project, it would but this is not a conventionally financed project. In today's market, the only ones who can build in Main South are highly subsidized builders of affordable housing. The numbers simply do not work for a private investor in this area.

Paulie, as far as what the actually people who live here or own property next to this project, you are so naive. Their opionion means nothing. This is big money (7,000,000 million dollars)!!! Since you are only paying back a note on $1,000,000 (at the most) and 25 units are rented then their are residual income to the developers (South Worcester is 50% owner in the end). In other words the South Worcester Neighborhood Center has a vested interest in this project since we all know that state funds are getting cut. Talk about conflict of interest.

Bottom line if Donald Trump ever came down here and wanted to build luxury condos, he would be turned away with people yelling "gentrification". On the other hand, you come to town with millions of tax-payer monies planning to build housing for low to mod income people, the red carpet is rolled out, variances are granted, water/sewer hook-ups are waived and sidewalks repaired at no cost.

Did I mention the ribbon cutting ceremonies? Twenty percent low to mod-income housing here we come. Right now the commercial-industrial tax base is at 18% in the City of Worcester while low to mod income is at 13.60%. I predict that by the year 2010, the percentage of low to mod income housing will exceed the commercial-industrial tax base.

The number 1 growth industry in the City of Worcester is low to mod income housing development!

November 27, 2008

Worcester Home Funds

City of Worcester had pledged 750,000 to Southgate Place despite the fact:
  • none of abutters support the project, not to be confused with community support. Developers will say there is community support, which means people that do not live or own property in the neighborhood.
  • we are already way beyond the 10% low affordable housing requirement
  • the South Worcester Master Plan calls for development of owner oocupied units not 25 unit apartment buildings
  • when the developer could not get the support of the abutter for various variances, they simply changed the plan to avoid any variances
  • my favorite, the plans include a bocci court. Handball or volleyball court maybe, but a frigin bocci court!!
  • one other thing. The developer flips the property into the hands of South Worcester so they can get EPA grants since South Worcester is a non--profit. Once the work is completed then they will flip the property back .
  • imagine they wil ask for a waiver of all water and sewer connections
  • imagine they will also ask the city to pay for sidewalk repairs

Why is the City of Worcester giving this project 750,000??? How is that for staying neutral. The thing that really bothers me about this whole project is that it is the South Worcester Neighborhood's job to protect the neighborhood from developments like this. Not only are they not protesting against this, but they are a 50% partner in the project.

Resign From South Worcester Board

Been busy the past couple of days. Closed on a house we built over on Tiverton Parkway and started in a new split off Olean Street. I will put occasional updates on the web, but if you know anyone interested in a brand new split level ranch, three bedrooms, two full baths with hardwoods and granite priced at 259K. Let me know, finders fee of course.

No more building in Main South. Not only is the market no there to make any kind of profit, but even if I did get someone to pay the number I would need would they get a mortgage? In other words the only new construction you will see in Main South will be full of huge subsidies aka low income housing.

Speaking of low income housing, I resigned from the South Worcester Neighborhood Center Board. At a development committee, I was approached by the developers of Southgate Place (Old City Builders), if I was talking bad about the project? Evidently stating facts about a parcel of land that was suppose to be 25 owners occupied townhouses that has morphed into a single building of 25 unit of low income apartments, which none of the abutters want is considered talking "bad". I was then told if I can not support the project then I should stay "neutral", in other words shut up.

I have been on this board too long and it was time for a change so I resigned. As an abutter to this parcel, I will continue to express my opinion about any development near me and I will never be "neutral." Bottom line is that the South Worcester Neighborhood Center is proceeding with a 25 low income apartment building that does not fit into the character of the neighborhood and that none of the abutters support.

Happy T-Day

November 26, 2008

Comments from a Direct Air Passenger

Hi Bill. Despite their call center in West Virginia being nothing but a background music phone number (never did get any person), Direct Air desk in Worcester was well staffed and efficient. The flight was delayed by 45 min due to delays out of Sanford, FL. The flight itself was smooth and comfortable in a brand new jet, leased from Jet Blue (think he meant to say Virgin America).

There were a few empty seats, but probably was at 90% capacity. The flight crew informed and the cabin attendants were attentive. The soft drink offerings were free with munchies having a price attached. Upon landing at Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda, FL (about 10 miles from my home in North Port), I quickly discovered there was no jetway. Because the terminal is so small @ CCA, a stairway was used, but who cares when the weather is so nice! Parking is close and free @ CCA. I'm looking forward to my return flight on Sunday morning into Worcester.

Have a nice Thanksgiving holiday!

November 25, 2008

Fox News Undercover Tonight

Spotlight on ORH at 10PM. Not on the website yet but I imagine that it will be after 10PM Click here.

Dual Tax Rate

Two stories in the Telegram today. One from blog favorite, Roberta Schaefer of the Worcester Municipal Research Bureau, click here. More or less she talks about how the dual tax rate is really hurting the growth of our city and that the commercial-industrial tax base has dropped from 35% to 18% since the inception of the dual rates in 1974 (guess can not get article on-line).

Makes you wonder what this percentage will be ten years from now? At the same time, you got to wonder what the commercial-industrial base has been in the surrounding towns with flat rates during the same time period. I would guess that it has either remained the same or increased? Why don't we ever take her reports seriously....

The other story was the annual letter from the Chamber of Commerce. It is a good letter and makes alot of sense, but isn't the fact the commercial-industrial tax base has dropped from 35% to 18% a direct reflection on the performance of the Chamber of Commerce. This flat tax rate should not be a once per year issue, but a issue the Chamber needs to talk about 365 days per year.


Fox News

I missed it?? Can anyone find the report on Worcester Airport?

November 24, 2008

Today's e-mail


I have tried several times to use your direct air website and every time i plug in the info needed and try to search for flights. it keeps telling me to put in a departure date which i already have listed.

is there something wrong with the site or am i doing something wrong??. i am a frequent flyer and i am very familiar with booking flights on line.

I would like to get into the site and see what you have to offer for flights to Sanford and Fort Myers.

I was excited to learn that you were offering service from Worc but I am a bit hesitant about this as I know Worc well and feel weather ( fog ) is an issue and delays flights. What if a flight is cancelled.??. do you transfer to RI or Boston for a flight out that day or just reschedule on the next flight out ??? which could be a major issue if attending a meeting etc.

Also i called the reservation number for info as i could not use the site. however, it took a very long wait time about 7- 8 minutes. i think this would discourage most business clients and think a local number would be much faster service.

With all respect, I have a few suggestions if you really want this to work in worc:

get the website working properly and easily for clients to use- offer a flexible with date option .... i see your flexible flyer option but that did nothing when i hit it, keeps saying to plug in a departure date .. which i did, still nothing.

speed up customer service with a local number to call , staff it in the worc. airport. with a personal contact. not computer .... if there is no local contact i doubt i would even attempt this .

flight cost needs to be lower than what i could get out of green, manchester or boston.
due to the risk factor of delays, cancellations and less airlines to be put onto.. the 99 deal when adding taxes etc. is not cheaper than what i can get out of the larger airlines.. its not that much of an inconvience to drive to the others ... the lower rate would be the issue i would use the worc airport.

offer better specials through email notice ( maybe you do already i just signed up )

i wish you luck and hopefully i will be able to find a cheap fare so i can fly from worc to fla.

November 23, 2008

Chamber of Commerce

Just read Sutner's story again. Q put a comment that the City of Worcester gives the Chamber of Commerce $500,000 per year. Someone please tell me Q is wrong. All of these groups and what do they do?
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Choose Worcester
  • Destination Worcester
  • Central Mass Convetion and Visitors Bureau


Two great stories from Diane, Sutner and Nick, must reads both of them, and my buddy Robert Z Nemeth has been pretty good read too. This actually must be one of the better Sunday TelegramsI have read in a long time.

Especially think Nick K has been on a roll, with Sutner a close second (he is getting much better with his investigations). Really you need to read this by Nick and the other by Sutner. What particularly bothers me is this line from Councilor Clancy, "I’ve listened to the Chamber of Commerce’s Chicken Little stories for 21 years and it’s been nothing but the same old, same old.”

Councilor Clancy, the commercial - industrial tax base is now at 18%. I can only guess where it was 21 years ago? I would bet you that it was more in the 30 to 40% range. In this case, the chicken is right and the sky is falling on our commercial - industrial tax base, which will ultimately drive the residential taxes through the proverbial roof.

Ironically, these are the same city councilors who will start their campaigns soon and talk about how we need to be "business friendly." In Shrewsbury, for instance, the tax rate for commercial properties was $9.14; in Grafton, $10.05; in Holden, $12.62; and in Northboro, $13.28; while Worcester will be at $28.72. If you were to start a business, where would you build?

Kudos to Councilor Rushton. Although he will get attacked by the other councilors pandering for votes, he is 100% right and is showing true leadership on this issue.

Direct Air--55% load first flight

Telegram story, click here. Looks like everthing went well.
Little, or should I say alot concerned, that only 82 of 149 seats (55% load) were sold. Direct Air made no money on this flight and will need to see higher loads to continue service out of ORH.

November 22, 2008

Direct Air First Flight

Can not make it. Anyone take pictures, e-mail them to me.

November 21, 2008

HELP! Just got this e-mail

Is Direct Air in operation out of Worcester now? Have any flights actually arrived or departed? I can't get a hold of anyone from Direct Air and I have a scheduled flight tomorrow from Worcester @ 5:15 pm which I'm trying to confirm.

Kudos To Rushton

It takes alot of guts to talk about one tax rate for commercial and residential, but it needs to be done. The question is will the other city councilors work with him or attack him for not being for the "lowest residential tax rate". Although I hope the former, I predict it will be the later.

Better yet where is:
  1. Destination Worcester
  2. Chamber of Commerce
  3. Choose Worcester
  4. Prominent Commercial Property owners

November 18, 2008

Pilot Program

I have been reading and listening to many people talk about the PILOT idea the past month, especially since the real estate market (city tax revenue collections) have slowed. Some ideas have been pretty good, while some have been somewhat bizarre.

Let me go on record, the City of Worcester, unlike many other urban cities in the NorthEast, has been lucky to have a college base to keep it from being the next Springfield. That said, I still feel the colleges could play a more active role in the "success" of Worcester.

For the 102nd time, I was on a task force some five years ago to look into this exact subject, commissioned by Mayor Murray run by former State Rep Leary. We did an incredible job. It resulted in the formation of the Univercity Partnership, which was suppose to turn the inherent untapped potential of these colleges into dollars that that the host city could not only see, but measure. This was not a unique concept, but that had been repeated by numerous other cities with a high proliferation of colleges.

In Worcester, this was an utter failure, although some councilors (specifically Councilor Toomey) actually praised the Univercity Partnership for all of its great work, when it was shut done some two years after it started. This never made sense, since the recommendation of the task force was that we needed this "partnership" to be an ongoing concern to turn the economic power of the colleges into "concrete" dollars and cents that the tax payers could realize and measure. The mere fact it was being shut down, if you read the task force report, meant that the Univercity Partnership was a failure.

The most ironic thing of the task force was that we read about a prior task force in the mid to late 90's. Upon completion of our task force recommendations, I (as others) was struck by the similarities in the recommendations from these two task forces some ten years apart. In fact our task force suggested and strongly recommended that we meet again (I think a year later), to review and grade our recommendations to ensure that another task force was not convened five years laters to do again for the third time, what had been done then two times already.

We never met again. As I sit here I can almost guarantee you a third task force will be convened and wil recommend what has already been done the other two times.

HELP... E-Mail I received

I live in Worcester and I am in the process of buying one of these prop powered hang gliders. I was wondering if I could launch and land this craft at the Worcester Airport, I only need 50 yards to take off and about 100 yards to land. I am trying to find a contact for the sterling airport to see if I could use their property but have no contact info for them. Is there a fee that I would need to pay to use the airport facility for this hobby?


Kevin Taylor

Cape Air to Erie?

Why can't we get Cape Air to provide shuttle service from ORH to Boston with their code sharing arrangement with JetBlue like the do in P-town, Hyannis, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket?

Looks like Erie may be next (to Pittsburgh), click here.

November 16, 2008

Direct Air

Direct Air has 8 cities they are servicing with three destinations:

  1. Punta Gorda
  2. Sanford
  3. Myrtle Beach

This alot of flights for this airline I am really starting to get concerned that this may be a little too much too fast for Direct Air.

November 15, 2008

Myrtle Beach

Thanks to everyone who sent me messages about the new service to Myrtle Beach starting in March or April. Little busy lately selling insurance. This is great news, although not surprising. Myrtle Beach is the corporate headquarters for Direct Air.

Myrtle Beach should be a popular location and loads should be great. I am just concerned that Direct Air has success in November/December/January and February with Punta Gorda/Sanford and are able to make till March/April.

Click here for story in the Telegram. Check out this from their own website:

Direct Air now offers nonstop flights to Myrtle Beach from Niagara Falls, New York City (Newark), Pittsburgh, Montreal (Plattsburgh), Allentown, Kalamazoo, Worcester , Toledo, Chicago (Rockford), and Punta Gorda (Ft. Myers)! Fly direct to Punta Gorda (Ft. Myers area) from Worcester, Kalamazoo/Battle Creek, Toledo, Plattsburgh and Niagara Falls, or to Orlando-Sanford from Kalamazoo and Worcester... with fares starting at only $99.00!

This is extremely aggressive and there is no way they will be able to do all of these routes to all of these destinations from all of these cities. Watch for quick cuts in the Direct Air route map, where load factors are not at least 85%.

November 12, 2008

13.60% Affordable Housing

Thanks Dave "Dewey" Zimage for sending me a link from the Worcester Business Journal showing the percent of affordable housing in each city and town in Central Massachusetts. Congrats Worcester, we exceed the state mandate to have 10% and are ranked number 3 in Worcester County.

Click here for the link.

Maybe after:
  1. May Street
  2. Burwick
  3. Piedmont Street
  4. Mason/Winfield
  5. City Builders
  6. Grand Street

We will be able to claim the number 1 ranking.

November 10, 2008

Mahoney Results in Paxton

As I have mentioned here earlier I helped a friend of mine, John Mahoney, with his sticker campaign. Saturday I pick up the paper and see a headline "Mahoney Loses Votes to Other Write-ins in Paxton." Click here for the whole story.

The paper lists the following results:

Spellane 1157
Mahoney 744
Blanks 43

Total 1,944

Now look at the vote for President in Paxton

Obama 1256
Mccain 1194
Nader 34
Barr 10
Mckinney 4
Baldwin 3

Total Votes 2550

Different totals?
Maybe I can e-mail the person who wrote the article? No, there is no author, so am I to assume the Town of Paxton issued this press release? If they did then what town official has the right to make an editorial comment like "Mr Spellane ... received an overwhelming majority of the votes in the Worcester part of the district". Again this is factually incorrect Isn't a majority 51% and since this was not achieved how can anyone consider it an overwhelming majority?

Worcester Boards

I have told that in order for non-residents to serve on Worcester boards that there would need to be a charter change. Let me remind you that I did say that preference should be given to Worcester residents, but not being a Worcester resident should not disqualify you. Qualifying should be expanded to include people, who pay property taxes in the City of Worcester even if they are not residents.

So lets change the charter? I have been told that is not going to happen.

Here is what I plan on doing. From this point forward I will not, and I think other non-Worcester residents, should not any donate monies to local campaigns. Lets make that part of the city charter.

November 09, 2008

Linear Press Release - Linear Air Emily Sanchez, 978-451-0589 Linear Air, the leading personal jet air taxi service provider in the Northeast, announced the close of $1.3 million in financing which includes new capital and debt. "This new financing was pivotal for us to maintain market leadership during the current economic environment," says President and
CEO, William Herp. "While conditions for fundraising at this time are not ideal, we have a group of investors whose commitment to our success hasn't waivered and remains strong." With the new financing, Linear Air is poised perfectly to launch its aircraft management program designed to assist those who have very light jet aircraft in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, with future potential for national service.

The company's new VLJ Aircraft Management Program will assist those with VLJ aircraft who desire access to aircraft maintenance, pilot training and the potential for higher charter revenues. While the program is most beneficial for Eclipse 500 VLJ aircraft owners, the program applies to a broad base of VLJ owners and aircraft types. "Linear Air is ideally positioned for an Aircraft Management Program within the VLJ space due to our relationships with aircraft manufacturers and our in-house training program," says Herp. "Our ability to ease the pain for others who operate similar aircraft is increasing, especially as uncertainty continues to surround the Eclipse 500 manufacturer, Eclipse Aviation Corporation."

The VLJ Aircraft Management Program is classic in structure. Owners receive 85% of charter revenue, cover all related costs and pay a $2,500 monthly management fee to cover overhead. Linear Air offers owners higher aircraft utilization and higher cost offset through the company's large database of customers without the hassle of handling the transactions.

About Linear Air Linear Air provides point-to-point air taxi service with unprecedented access and affordability. Based in Concord, Mass., the Linear Air fleet includes Eclipse E500 business jets and Cessna Grand Caravan turboprops. Linear Air offers business and leisure travelers access to more than 500 cities in the Northeast and eastern Canada. Linear Air is a FAA-certified part 135 charter operator that maintains a Gold safety rating from ARG/US, the leading independent safety auditor in the aviation industry. For more information, please visit or call 1-877-2-LINEAR. Despite current economy, Linear Air secures $1.3 million infinancing and gains momentum for a Very Light Jet (VLJ) AircraftManagement Program.

November 07, 2008

Telegram Comments

Two months ago, I started to get some comments on this blog that were quite offensive. As a result I set up comment moderation, which requires me to read every comment before it is posted. After a couple of days, the distasteful comments stopped and I removed comment moderation, but I will do it again if I have to.

Today I was reading comments on the Telegram on-line version, that were horrible. Why does Harry Tembenis need to personally sign off for his letter to the Editor, but the same Telegram allows people to post viscous comments about people on their on-line version anonymously?
The Telegram should 1) install "comment moderation" versus "report abuse" and 2) require people that post comments ,verify who they are and attach their actual name and address.

Why am I surprised? This is the same newspaper, who allows a sitting airport commissioner/chairman write stories about the airport while not acknowledging a potential conflict. If I can stop stupid comments on my blog, you would think the Telegram could do the same?

Boston Globe Story on Direct Air

click here

November 06, 2008

City Has Its Limits Solution

Couple clarifications.

It is not a homeless problem downtown and the police do a great job downtown. It is more a gathering of Paulie's Pajama people that does not attract people, who want to spend money. Instead you turn elsewhere.

Do you think Buddy Cianci would allow this to happen in front of Providence City Hall when he was Mayor? No way!! For that matter neither would Mayor Giuliani, when he was Mayor of New York. Paulie, stop worrying about Jordan Levy and lets focus on the true " Mayor" of our City, our City Manager.

We should have the WRTA buses move to the intermodal transportaion hub and move the downtown police station there. We all know that there is space there, so why pay rent to Berkeley for that substation when we could pay rent to ourselves at Union Station? Don't think the commuters using Union Station or parking in the garage would mind the police presence either....

City Has Its Limits

Been busy helping my friend, John Mahoney, run a last second sticker campaign. He did a great job, better then you think. There were almost 4,000 ballots that were blank. Many of which I am sure were truly blank, but I guarantee you that many of them had Mahoney stickers but people either placed it in the wrong spot or did not mark the oval. Actually we have talked to alot of people who after applying the sticker forgot to mark the oval!!!

That said great story in the paper today entitled City Limits. I walked downtown to a local subshop owner by Steve called the Subway right on Front Street aroun 3PM. Good sandwich, nice guy but the people walking around not a professional crowd. I do not know how else to put it.

I can understand why the person in the article mentioned how they feel safe in the atrium of the hospital but not downtown. Here is the biggest problem downtown. Simply put we need to get all of the bus stops away from downtown!!

November 02, 2008

Final Chapter Part 1: Low to Mod Income Housing

Forget how many years ago, was it 8 years ago???? I gladly accepted when I was asked to be on the South Worcester Neighborhood Improvement Corp (SWNIC) board of directors. There was no heavy lifting and it was fun at first, when we focused on our core mission, human services.

About four years ago,it all changed for me when we started getting into the low to mod income property development game. To date we have focused on two properties:

  1. $2,050,000 project on Cambridge/Hacker Street for 12 owner occupied units, 9 of which (I may be one off) had to be low to mod income
  2. $650,000 of grant monies on Cambridge/Hacker that do not have to be paid back as long as the "affordabilty period is not violated.
  3. $1,060,000 loan to BankNorth is still outstanding but Holy Cross is paying the interest.

City Builders Parcel

  1. $7,000,000 dollar project on the old City Builders parcek for 25 rental units for low to mod income.
  2. $515,000 loan from CEDAC to help buy the parcel
  3. $1,900,000 grant
  4. $3,300,000 in Federal Tax Credits

In total these two projects represent $9,050,000, which has generated 3 owner occupied units. That thing that really kills me is that anytime we talk about cuts, it is mentioned we will need to cut firemen, cops and teachers. Why not cut projects like these?

November 01, 2008

Barney Frank

Ironically, in light of my blogs of my low to mod housing blogs, Barney Frank was at Holy Cross talking about affordable housing. Click here for the Telegram Story. What a joke this guy is...

  • "America has not done enought to help the homeless"
  • "Collapse of the housing market, was a lack or regulations" Whose fault was that? He was on the House Financial Services Committee,which he now chairs, that passess these regulations
  • "there is not enough appropriate housing to meet the demand and not enough housing under construction". Evidently he did not drive around Worcester. Burwick, May Street, Mason-Winfield, Cambridge-Hacker, May Street, Piedmonth St, City Builders to name a few.
  • “There is a shortage of affordable housing in the United States,”
  • “One problem in building affordable housing is neighbors saying they don’t want poor people living near them,” he said.
  • “The policy we have followed has so starved affordable housing and so diminished the resources available for the homeless that we’ve ended up in a situation where we’re pitting the homeless against each other. Shame on a society as rich as ours that allows that to happen. And I guarantee you that if we get the right administration, we will put an end to that.

Bottom line is Rep Frank does not think we have done enough regarding low to mod income housing and need to do even more...

October 29, 2008

Tacoma Narrows

Although most people think of the bridge the falls in the video, I have been following the sale of this municipally owned airport for a couple years. At one time there was a rumored private investor who wanted to buy the airport, but in the end it was to be sold to the county government, Pierce County.

The thing we should all be focusing on is, what price did the City of Tacoma sell the airport to Pierce County? Although the market value, according to Mike Slevin (the city’s interim public works director), was estimated to be anywhere between $10 million and $20 million in recent years as reported in an article written by Niki Sullivan in the News Tribune. The sale price was determined to be $5 million.

In the end the sale price has been dropped to $3 million, why? Turns out, according to the article, federal law dictates that the sale price is determined by expenses incurred over the previous six years. After an audit the the City of Tacoma could only come up with $3 million, thus the sales price.

This begs the question, what have been the expenses incurred the previous six years by the City of Worcester at ORH? The debt expense has been about $600,000 per year so that is about $3,600,000 over 6 years. On the other hand, there has been subsidies on the operating expenses at varying levels by MassPort. My best guesstimate is that the City of Worcester's share is probably around $3,000,000.

Does that mean the most that we could sell the airport for is $6,600,000?

Rumor Mill

Winn Management of Boston has bought property along Water in or near Chevalier Furniture. Alot of their property is low to mod income. In Worcester they have Coes Pond on First Street and Wellington on Main Street.

Part 11: Low to Mod Income Housing

Applications were submitted and money has been granted. Note this article from the Telelgram this past August 20th, click here. Here are the hi-lights:

Southgate and Grand streets will soon be torn down to make way for a three-story, 25-unit affordable housing project. That dream came closer to reality yesterday with the news that the state Department of Housing and Community Development has awarded the $7 million project a $1.9 million grant and $3.3 million in tax credits spread over 10 years.

Jahn before you leave the comment, the cost breaks down to 280,000 per apartment. The most important thing, however, are the buzz words "affordable housing project". In other words, all the units must be for low to mod income.

One other trick that I have learned is formation of the company developing the property. In this case the developer is newly formed corporation called Mechanics Guild LLC, which is a partnership with Stepone Inc., an affiliate of Horne and Johnson (a Natick architectural firm), and the South Worcester Neighborhood Center (SWNIC). Why does this work good?

You take advantage of the non-profit status of SWNIC by transfering ownership of the parcel to the non-profit entity (SWNIC) for $1 , apply for Brownfields clean-up money and avoid having to pay the monies back since the grantee was a non-profit. Once the clean-up is done, you transfer the parcel back to the newly formed corporation. We have seen this before on Mason Street.

October 28, 2008

Part 10: Low To Mod Income Housing

We had the public meeting at the South Worcester Neighborhood, after the postponed variance meeting, and a new proposal was shown. It still contained the single building with the 20 plus rental units, but now there was two parking spots per unit as required by code. How was this done?

The number of owner occupied units was cut (think to 6 units but I could be wrong from the original 25) to provide the required number of parking spots. People were still unhappy with a 20+ unit apartment building, but were at least happy that there was enough parking. Still unhappy, I asked when the next zoning board meeting would be held for the remaining variances? Answer: There will not be another Zoning Board Meeting, since the revised plans did not need any variances.

Once it was realized that there would not be neighborhood support, the plans were altered so that there would be no need get neighborhood support for a variance. Ironically this was done by reducing the number of owner occupied units, the original intent of the purchase of the land and what the abutters had wanted all along, not a 20+ plus unit apartment building.

The next step was for the developer to apply to whatever agencies that they need to apply to, but they would build the apartment building first (that nobody wanted) and not the owner occupied units (that everyone wanted) later. You can not make this stuff up?

  • Grants become loans
  • Owner occupied townhouses become 20+ unit apartment buildings
  • Neighborhood support, once realized not attainable, is merely circumvented
  • Owner occupied townhouses are replaced by a large 20+ unit apartment building

October 27, 2008

Part 9: Low to Mod Income Housing

Quick Refresher. The old City Builders site was purchased for $490,000 which was presented to the South Worcester Board of Directors as a grant, which later actually became a loan. It was still approved even as a loan, under the auspices of owner-occupied townhouses.

April 20, 2006 Worcesteria in WoMag talking about Southgate Place:

I can not find it on-line, but I have a copy of Worcesteria for that issue. Scott Zoback mentioned the project and refers to the monies from CEDAC as grant to purchase the old City Builders for $490,000. It also referred to a plan calling for 25 owner-occupied townhouses on the site. In other words, I am not nuts and did not imagine all of this.

January 5, 2007

As an abutter, I receive a notice to discuss the plans at the Neighborhood Center and that SWNIC was looking for the neighborhood support. Why? SWNIC is going for a variance on January 8th, 2008. Plans, however, are just for 11 townhouses and for the first time that I ever heard-- a low rise 21 unit mulit-family dwelling unit is mentioned??

The variances were many:
  • 93 feet of frontage
  • 21 parking spots
  • 5 ft 4 inches of relief of front yard setback
  • 4.01 feet of sideyard setback
  • relief from floor area ratio
  • relief from number of stories (1)

The neighborhood meeting went quite badly with most people being upset with a 21 unit apartment building. Needless to say the meeting ended up with no support for the project.

January 8, 2008

I, as an abutter, showed up at the meeting with many other abutters to oppose the variance. The developer requested a postponement was it was granted. We left that night with the promise that we would meet with the developer again to discuss our concerns.

October 26, 2008

End of Intermission

But first check out Nick K column today. In particular the following part that I have been thinking myself for what was months but now years:

Careful for what you wish for, boys and girls, because Mr. Park and company might just tell you all to go pound sand.

After all, Berkeley Investments, not the city, owns the CitySquare development site, which includes the former outlet mall, the two office towers and the parking garages. In 2004, Berkeley paid $30.3 million for the property, and it has been paying property taxes on it since. The city has no ownership or control over the property.

True, Berkeley is partnering with the city on CitySquare — the city will be providing public money for the demolition of the mall and the construction of new roadways and infrastructure — but should the City Council be telling Berkeley whom to negotiate with or criticizing the company for not moving quickly enough?

If Berkeley just wanted to sit on the property, wouldn’t it be well within its right, as long as it continued to pay property taxes to the city?

Berkeley is a successful development company and one would think it knows what it is doing. They certainly aren’t going to rush into something just for the sake of making some local elected officials happy. They want to make sure that whatever they do makes the most sense for them and the project. It is, after all, not the best economic climate for major development projects.

October 24, 2008

Intermission Part 2

Just reread alot of my comments on Low to Mod Housing projects. So far it has been fair and accurate.

Let me say this again the South Worcester Neighborhood Center does an A+ (Excellent) job when it comes to human services--its core mission. Our neighborhood needs this agency.


Today editorial--Direct Air Novel Approach?

What is their model? They are a public charter (typically underfunded), that lease planes, to serve secondary airports (utilizing subsidies from the underlying airports) to popular leisure destinations. Typically even the leisure destinations that they are serve are secondary--Sanford not Orlando, St Pete not Tampa, Punta Gorda not Fort Myers.

Novel Approach? What about:

  1. SouthEast Airlines
  2. Hooters
  3. TransMeridian
  4. SkyValue

I am hoping Direct Air is a success, but calling their approach "novel" is far from the truth when there are 4 airlines that I can think of in the last three years that used the same buisness model.

October 23, 2008

Part 8: Low to Mod Housing Projects

I need to get back on the airport--I promise three parts to go and I am done.

After voting to approve the purchase of the former City Builders parcel for $495,000 from a grant from CEDAC, it was called to our attention by one board member, after reading the documents, that this "grant" had to be repaid. In other words it was not a "grant" at all, but a loan.

At our next board meeting it was not explained that the "grant" in fact really was not a "grant", but a loan. After much discussion another vote was taken and it was voted to approve the loan (much closer vote) and still buy the City Builders property. The plan then was to build 20 plus owner occupied units with duplex style housing with off street parking.

Part 9: When 20+ duplex style owner occupied units turns into one 23 unit apartment building for low to mod income tenants.

October 22, 2008

Part 7: Low to Mod Housing Projects

What happened after Cambridge/Hacker?

The South Worcester Neighborhood Center decided to move on to the former City Builders site, which is roughly bounded by Southgate/Grand/Armory Street. For years it was a good business in the area that probably employed 10-15 employees, went out of business about 5-7 years and was bought by a private party, who rented out various parts of the property. I can honestly say it was underutilized and did not look good to the passerby. In other words, when the site was brought up as a potential development site even with Cambridge/Hacker on the table, I listened.

During the Spring/Summer of 2006, it was presented to board that we could buy this parcel for $495,000. My first reaction was this was "way too much money". I was told, however, that we could buy this parcel with a grant, not a loan, from the Commonwealth of Massashusettts from an organization called CEDAC.

We could in essence take control of this property for free, so I voted for the purchase. How could we lose?

Part 8: When a Grant becomes a loan.

October 21, 2008

Part 6: Low to Mod Income Housing Projects

Lets move on from Cambridge/Hacker Street.

Before I do, however, let me tell everyone who reads this blog that the South Worcester Neighborhood Center does an A+ job when it comes to human services. Why we got into low to mod income "big business" housing projects never made sense to me. I consistently voted against it and was a big mistake. We should focus on what we are good at and get out of this type of developments.

That said, one would think after Cambridge/Hacker Street, when the South Worcester Neighborhood Center would basically have been foreclosed on and potentially put out of business, except for the fact Holy Cross co-signed, that the low to mod income income housing projects would be over. You are wrong.

Not only has another parcel been purchased with a loan from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts but grants have already been approved. Details to follow.

Part 5: Low to Mod Housing Projects


I have received some e-mails on this so let me explain. The Commonwealth of Mass and City of Worcester gets various monies from the Federal Government whereby they give grants to help developers build housing, either rental or ownership, for low to mod income housing.

The Federal Government does not want these grant monies be given out for low to mod income then the underlying project to become market housing. How do they protect themselves? Answer: affordability period!

In other words the money will be given the the project under the condition that the project remains low to mod income for a certain stipulated period of time. I have seen most often 15 years, but it can vary.

Here is the big key. What happens if there is a violation during the affordability period? The money has to be paid back not by the developer by the PJ (Presiding Jurisdiction) that gave the money.

Lets take an example:
  • City of Worcester gives $250,000 in grants for a low to mod housing project
  • Developer goes under and the units are bought by non low to mod income people during the affordability period.
  • City of Worcester owes the Feds $250,000

Now I simplified the explanation, but it is pretty close. Bottom line is that when the City of Worcester gives out these grants, there is a certain amount of risk back on the City that they may have to pay this money back.

October 20, 2008

Part 4: Low to Mod Housing Project

Part 4 is all about Holy Cross....

I read a story in the Telegram about a property on LaGrange Street by Clive McFarlane. The long and the short of it was that the owners of the condos had walked and that the place was a mess. This property has now been placed into receivership under the state’s Abandoned Housing Initiative. Now the property is managed by Worcester Community Housing Resources.

Although I doubt Cambridge/Hacker would have been mismanaged to this degree and forced to be placed into receivership, I have no doubt that the South Worcester Neighborhood Center would not have been able to pay interest on $1,060,000 loan. This begs the question then what would have happened if Holy Cross had not co-signed on the loan?

By now BankNorth would have foreclosed and taken title to the property. If they had a) decided to rent or b) sold any of the remaining 9 units to people of non low to mod income, a pro rata portion of the grants would have had to be repaid back by whatever PJ (presiding jurisdiction) had give the monies in the first place.

Bottom line.. The fact that Holy Cross has been paying the monthly interest has not only 1) stopped the loan being foreclosed but 2) saved the PJ ( Presiding Jurisdictions) from having to pay back the monies (650,000) that were granted to this project for falling into non compliance. Who are the PJ's? They are the CIty of Worcester and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In other words Holy Cross has taken a bad situation and bought everyone alot of time to make this project, that was intended, to keep all the grants in compliance by paying the monthly interest. My guesstimate is that the monthly interest is $5,000 per month. Thank you Holy Cross!!!!

October 19, 2008

Part 3: Low to Mod Housing Project

What mistakes were made here and what can we learn?

First the project was simply too big and did not fit into the character of the neighborhood. This is a neighborhood full of 3 deckers scattered with a few single family homes. Then considering how small parcel of land, 12 units was not only too dense but simply does not fit into the neighborhood and looks out of place. A tri-plex with with underneath parking for one car and one outside parking, in the 500-600K versus 2,000,000, would have been a much better plan.

Second, the zoning board has to stop allowing variances for all of these low to mod income projects. This project was relieved of 12 parking spots in a neighborhood that already has no off street parking as well as 270 feet of frontage. Don't get me wrong the zoning board works incredibly hard at no pay, but this project never would have been approved if it was a private developer. There is understanding in the City of Worcester that the CDC's get any variance they want since they are building low to mod housing. This needs to stop.

October 18, 2008

Part 2: Low Mod Housing Project

Quick Review. There is approximately a $1,060,000 loan to BankNorth, $650,000 of various grants for owner-occupancy invested, 3 units sold and 9 units remaining.

We all know the current real estate market is soft. A private developer might consider renting the remaining 9 units, until the market turns. This is not an option here since the grants were for owner occupancy!! If these units are rented then the $650,000 has to be paid back by the PJ (presiding jurisdiction which means whoever gave the grants), since it violates the terms of the grants for owner-occupancy.

Bottom line these units not only have to be sold, but they need to be sold to a person of low- mod income, another requirement of the grants. In other words, we need to find 9 people of low-mod income to buy these units for owner-occupancy at average price of approximately $118,000 per unit to pay off the 1st bank loan to BankNorth.

Problem is that I only see these units appraising out no more then $75,000 per unit and that is with an extremely aggressive appraiser. What next? Answer: Try to get more grants to lower the price on the remaining units.

Lets say we were able to get another $225,000 in grants ($25,000 per unit times nine units) then we could lower the price to $93,000 per unit (118,000 break-even less the new subsidy of $25,000). I still not sure these units would sell even at $93,000, maybe 2 or 3 but not 9, since the credit markets for low-mod income (sub prime) is not good.

If something like this were to happen, then the new total of our tax monies (you and my money) invested in this project would be $975,000 ($650,000 plus the new $225,000 in extra subsidies).

Part 3 tomorrow--final thoughts on Cambridge/Hacker Street.

October 16, 2008

Part 1: Low-Mod Housing Projects

I am going to write a couple blogs on low-mod housing projects.

To give people an idea of how these projects work, in this blog I want to give you a breakdown of a project done by the South Worcester Neighborhood Improvement Corp (SWNIC), of which I am a board member. Here is a general breakdown of the finances of the Cambridge/Hacker Street project, and is quite similar to how the other projects are done.

My numbers may not be to the penny, but they will give a fair an accurate portrayal of the finances. In total, the cost to build these 12 owner occupied units was $2,050,000 broken out as follow:

  1. BankNorth Conventional Loan $1,400,000 in first position

  2. City, State, Federal Grants $650,000 (HOME, CDBG Funds, etc)

Keep in mind these grants (650,000) do not have to be repaid if a certain number of the 12 units (forgot the number-think 9?) were sold to low-mod income home-owners. In other words all you really need to break-even is to raise $1,400,000 from the proceeds, not the $2,050,000.

Problem is that only three units have sold for about $340,000 (TOTAL PROCEEDS FROM THE 3 SALES), which has lowered the BankNorth loan to approximately $1,060,000. SWNIC has no money to pay the interest on this loan and now Holy Cross, the co-signor on BankNorth loan, has been paying the interest on the loan, which is not a small number.

In total to date, $2,050,000 has been invested, of which $650,000 is our tax money, into Cambridge/Hacker Street and three owner-occupied units have been produced.

Next blog over the week-end following up on this.

October 15, 2008

UNUM Provident

Orginally I told Dave Z that I saw no chance of Unum staying in Worcester and I do not blame the City of Worcester in any way. Think that this decision was a "done" deal when Paul Revere was orginally sold. In fact I have a gentleman's bet with Mr Zimage, which I now feel that I will most likely lose.

Jahn, I watched a little of the City Council and I think there were three potential sites that Unum was looking at:
  • City Square
  • Gateway
  • Washington Square parcel

All public financed/subsidized properties--- not one private entities. Why would they move to another privately owned building in Worcester when they already own a building in Worcester?? Answer: In the end after the money/subsidies that will be thrown at UNUM, they can probably save a boat load of money renting new digs and renting or selling their old pad.

Maybe UNUM is not looking to pay market rent for their new temporary home, since I still feel that they will ultimately leave the City of Worcester and consolidate in Maine and Tennessee. What better exit strategy then to rent new space, below market value, while divesting in your real estate holdings.

Ultimately if UNUM were to move to City Square and this became the catalyst then it would be a good thing. At the same time I don't think any of us had UNUM in mind, when all of the public monies were spent on the above three development parcels to attract business to Worcester.

Lastly got to agree with Councilor Palmieri on this one, I did not realize Gateway Park was to be an office park?

Direct Air

I am really starting to wonder about ticket sales. Is it just me but is anyone else underimpressed by the marketing to date. Granted there have been some ads in the newspaper and some ads on television, but I wonder how much has been spent of the DOT grant on marketing?

Not Direct Air's fault but people losing 20% of their retirement monies last week are not looking to book trips to Florida. Lets hope we get an update on sales soon.


October 14, 2008

New Orleans Airport Privatization

Just read an article in Forbes that New Orleans is now also considering privatizing their airport. I can still remember in January of 2005, Robert Z Nemeth coming to my office and me having to explain what privatization and wifi was and how we should be doing both at ORH. Mr Nemeth then proceeded to tell me that 1) nothing gets done at the airport unless it goes through him and 2) direct a letter to the airport suggesting both.

I did send a letter to the airport regarding my belief that ORH should privatize the airport by conducting an RFP to long-term lease or outright sell the airport. It was noted in the minutes of the February, 2005, and dismissed as noted as "already included in the IMG scope of work." IMG, in fact, did look report on this in their $100,000 report and dismissed it as something "a public/private partnership is not likely at this time". I never knew how they could know this without conducting an RFP?

I wonder if Chicago Midway or New Orleans also had to go through Robert Z Nemeth to solicit bids to privatize their airports.

October 12, 2008

August 11, 2008 Board Minutes

On-line click here.
  1. no mention of any pending negotiations with Direct Air, which was announced on September 5th, or any other airline.
  2. no mention of status of negotiations with MassPort
  3. no mention of what IMG is doing with the $100,000 that we have spent on them to retain and recruit an airline.
  4. another extension of one year was asked for on the DOT Small Community Air Service grant which was set to expire in September after already being extended for one year.
  5. two photo shoots as reported by ex Airport Director Waldron
  6. Meeting started at 6:45 and ended at 6:51?

From now on I will keep checking the Airport Board minutes, but I am not going to comment on it anymore. I just got to believe that most of the real work is done outside the official board meetings, so reading these is actually pretty useless and a waste of time.

Direct Air Route Map

Click here

October 11, 2008

Soft Second Liability

I have mentioned this many times but here goes. The City has lent out lots of monies in the forms of what are called "soft" seconds. They are "soft" in the sense the underlying home-owner, low to mod income owner, does not have to actual make payments on the mortgage.

Here is how it works a CDC sells a house for $200,000 and the home-owner gets a real mortgage for say $170,000 that they make payments on. The City of Worcester kicks in the other $30,000 through their HOME funds from HUD, which the home-owner does not pay back. In the end the CDC walks away with $200,000, the home-owner typically puts down little or no cash and the second of Worcester has liability for the $30,000.

What liability? Well, if a person who is not low-mod income takes ownership during the affordability period, typically 15 years but I have seen longer, the City of Worcester (not the CDC) owes $30,000 to HUD. There are already alot of these soft second mortgages that have violated the affordability period that they City of Worcester now has to pay back. I hope someone inquiries into this and ask for a report detailing what we owe.

Tacoma Narrows Airport Sold

The Pierce County Council has approved buying the Tacoma Narrows Airport near Gig Harbor for $5 million. The county is paying $3 million and the Peninsula Parks District will pay $2 million and get the adjacent golf course.
The News Tribune reports Tacoma has been trying to sell the money-losing airport for two years.

October 10, 2008

South Worcester Industrial Park (SWIP) Update

Over the past ten years, I have been to about 30 meetings on this. This is no exageration, to date not one single job has been created and pretty much nobody knows where the South Worcester Industrial Park (SWIP) is.

In November, 2007, the City of Worcester was able to RFP a large parcel of land (11 acres) referred to as 49 Canterbury Street. It is a large fenced in lot bounded by Canterbury, Gardner and Southgate Street. It was big step and will eventually be the first/anchor tenant of the SWIP.

There were two bidders:
  1. Absolute Machine: an abutter bid 50,000 for expansion of existing business

  2. Pharmasphere: start-up company bid $1 with promises to invest approximately $15 million to invest in a 50,000 square foot facility

Pharamasphere was awarded the bid "because it proposed to move forward quickly and create jobs for workers with a range of skills and educational", click here for the Telegram story announcing the award this past January, 2008. Myself I thought supporting existing local businesses an awarding the parcel to the abutter bidding $50,000 made more sense then a start-up bidding $1, but I digress.

Next step was to complete what is referred to as a Terms of Conveyance (TOC). Although the TOC to transfer the property was only suppose to take 30 days, per the RFP, the Terms of Conveyance was signed 9 months later on September 4, 2008. I have had a chance to read the TOC and do not like the terms at all.

The actual transfer of the property for $1 will now take place no later then ten days after a building permit is obtained. O'kay I can accept this, but what I can not accept is the deadline to get the building permit. The deadline is September 1st, 2009.

Let me get this right. Pharasphere won the bid for $1 in January, 2008, because they were suppose to "move forward quickly" and now they have until September 1st, 2009 to obtain a building permit before they have even have to take title to the property within ten days for $1. It gets better, or should I say worse.

Even if they do not have the building permit on September 1st, 2009, the TOC can not be terminated until September 1st, 2010 as long as Pharmasphere "has pending applications to obtain such permit and is diligently pursuing such permit." How does one interpret or enforce a "diligent" standard. This winning bid of $1 in essence can tie up this 11 acre parcel, that nobody is paying taxes on, until September 1st, 2010.

One of the reasons given for the long time period is that Pharmasphere is having a tough time raising venture capital for this start-up, which is understandable especially in light of recent market developments. At the same time one must wonder how this project was ever considered to be one that would in fact "move forward quickly" without firm commitments already in place. The better question, however, is why enter into a TOC that can tie up this parcel for two years when it is a "tough time" to raise monies for start-ups and there are no loan commitments in place?

Maybe we should not have signed the TOC and rebid the parcel.

Vaction Express

Over the four or five years, we have seen alot of airlines come and go that serve secondary cities like Worcester:
  1. SouthEast
  2. Hooters
  3. TransMeridian
  4. Skybus
  5. SkyValue

During that time, we have seen a couple not only survive but thrive like Allegiant and USA3000. One I always forget--Vacation Express. Imagine direct flights to Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean.

October 08, 2008

Three Main Points

That last 3-6 months I have been bringing up the same three points/questions about the airport:

1 RFP the entire airport

Although we have been talking about privatizing the airport for 4-5 years, it looks like this will become a reality.

2 Status of Avports

Found out that Avports was not given the information that they requested, but are still looking at the numbers that were on-line.

3 Estimated Savings to downgrade to General Aviation

Nobody has worked on this.

At least one thing is being done.

October 06, 2008

Leasing of City Property Explored

Article by Nick K in the newspaper today.

On the blog we have been begging the City for four years to put an RFP out on the entire airport to either 1) long-term lease or 2) outright sell ORH. In fact I meant with then Chairman of the Airport Commission some three (or was it four) years ago to explain privatization and he asked me to submit a letter to the board, which I did. It was blown off because IMG said that there would be no suitors. How they knew that without ever putting out an RFP never made sense to me.

Councilor Petty the bid on Chicago Midway is not the first example of airport privatization. In 1999, Stewart Airport in Newburgh was leased out for 99 years to National Express, a Eurpoean company, at an up front cost of $35 and a percentage of the annual sales. National Express has completely turned the airport around and has resold the remaining years of the lease to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

MassPort has been a great partner and savior for ORH the past ten years, but 18 months we have been negotiating this sale. Maybe we need to open up the process to all buyers, like Avports who have already expressed an interest, by condusting an RFP. That said, why do we need to hire someone to do the RFP.

In closing, this is good news but it should have started five years ago.

October 05, 2008

Department Head Increases

These were pulled three or four months back, when will this reappear. Anyone know ?

Nick K

Good story today in the newspaper Nick K. How can the City Manager possibly recommend the addition of two positions to Neighborhood Services when he:
  • Forced retirees to go on Medicare, which I agree with
  • the Beattle Invasion
  • the cost of the sewerage upgrade by the EPA
  • collections by the Commonwealth are below expectations
  • Question 1
  • credit crunch

There is no other way to look at this decision then simply being bad management. The hidden cost of two employees, benefits etc, can not be overlooked and kudos to the City Councilors to insist that we make these contracted positions.

October 03, 2008

State Tax Collections

Through September, click here

Look at the bottom. Projected collections from increased sales tax is running 8 million behind

Ticket Sales

Very silent up on the hill. Not Direct Air's fault either, but I can not imagine ticket sales can be that good right now? July 14th board minutes still the most recent on-line.

October 02, 2008

Paulie's Blog

I try not to do this too much but here is a must read, click here.

October 01, 2008

Chamber of Commerce

Our Chamber of Commerce is very weak and does nothing to support business in the City of Worcester. Our Chamber of Commerce does three things per year:
  • business after hours
  • once per year regarding the dual taxes
  • promoting our sports teams (Tordanoes and Sharks)

These three things are not bad things, but a strong Chamber of Commerce should be doing a whole lot more then that. Can I ask readers of this blog it they are members, why? If they are not, why not. We personally are not..

Anyone hear anything from Destination Worcester or Choose Worcester? My business is one block from all three of these organizations, I have no idea who they are, what they do or what they do for businesses in the City of Worcester.

Imagine if all of these groups were effective as the Research Bureau?

Abandoned Building Ordinance

Versus talking about new ordinances, maybe we better dust this one off. In the past two weeks I can think of two fires in abandoned houses and there were some before this. Remember this bill was passed after the Cold Storage Fire.

Did any of these buildings have a "Certificate of Building Closure" as required by the ordinance? All empty buildings are suppose to have one. If they are out of compliance the fine is $300 per day.

September 30, 2008

Sidewalk Repairs

Jahn, who should pay for the damage to these sidewalks you or the developer?