May 23, 2008

Hadley/Burwick Furniture Building

I have held off a couple days on this one, but click here for the story, if you have not read yet. First we should thank the state delegation for bringing money to the City of Worcester. That said, we really need to take a closer look at this incessant need to create more low income housing.

Lets look at the math, 20 million for 45 units equates to $444,444 per apartment. Actually the cost is less since there is 5,000 square feet of retail space in the first floor, but you get the picture. Out of these 45 apartments, however, 40 need to go to low income residents. We need more low income apartments?

  • Common Ground has a development on May Street that has another 50 units of apartments for low income under construction (not enough off-street parking).
  • Main South CDC has about 10-15 units empty for low income homebuyers, that just received a subsidy from the Commonwealth to lower their prices, that are still empty.
  • Mason-Winfield is another project for low-income homebuyers, with another 10-15 units on the drawing boards
  • WCHR has a project on Congress Street (think that is the street) with another 10 units for low-income homebuyers that is empty.
  • Common Ground has a project on Piedmont street with another 10-15 units on the drawing board that I think are for apartments (no off-street parking).
  • South Worcester Neighbor Center has a project on Cambridge/Hacker that is suppose to have 11 units for low-income homebuyers, of which only 3 have sold.
  • South Worcester Neighbor Center owns the the Old City Builders property that is trying to get monies for 20-25 apartment for low-income residents.
  • Recently we saw the completion of the Odd Fellow Buildings next to the Old Mart and the Standish Building.

My WAG (wild a-- guess) is that this represents approximately 60,000,000 in investments. Do you think we got out monies worth?

This is just a quick snapshot in a very small area of the City. When is enough enough??? My favorite line is from Mr Rodriguez-Pinzon "Our objective is to attract people with disposable income." A building with 40 out of 45 units intended for low income residents is attracting people with disposable income.

Gentrification is one thing and the City of Worcester is the furthest possible thing from it. In actuality we have been able to create a business friendly city for low income developers. Jahn, you are right this is the truly one growth business in Worcester.


Anonymous said...

And good Morning to you Mr Bill on this fine Mem. Day Weekend

A few days ago i printed out the airport budget 2008 vs 2009pages 136 to 144 of annual budget report.

Reference page 142 & 143. The city budget is including salaries and benefits that belong to Massport employees in our budget to the tune of $555,000 ($475,000 salaries & $80,000 in benefits)

So when Massport reimburses us $1.6M annually, $555,000 of that is going towards paying their own the true re-imbursement to the city is really only about $1.1M.

Without going into the minutae of all the numbers it appears to me the 11 city employees at Worc airport are costing us $105,000 to $115,000 each annually depending on how one interprets the budget.

Of the above, health insurance is costing us $19,000 per employee annually ($211,000 by 11 employees)....which seems unreal even for the something is obviously wrong with my numbers there ....maybe some of the health ins costs are for airport retirees.....or we got airport employees out Injured on Duty status for whom we still must pay health insurance??

IMO, this budget and the airport website both have somehting in common........try navigating either and you get more confused.

I know this post is supposed to be about low income housing, but I cant go into the low income housing thingie right now.........lest I get my weekend off to a bad start........but I will say ....gracias to Jim McGovern for bringing home the low income bacon.

Gabe said...

I am trying very hard to not use all caps here but I will do it for just one sentence.


This is not low income housing. On the contrary what is going on with this development is, dare I say, EXACTLY what downtown Worcester needs.

The goal is middle class, not the poor. I read that press release and everything he says desribing their target market sounds like he is describing me. I am not low income, I don't need help making my rent. I am within the salary range he speaks of in the press release.

I tell you, Worcester's residents are our own worst enemies, and not just the pajama people. This development is a good thing! Can't you see that?

Bill Randell said...


Don't mean to get you mad, but I just reread the press release "40 apartments designated for low-income residents and five market-rate units."

He does not speak of any salary range in the press release. I dare say, however, that the target market that is identified will have a hard time qualifying for the 40 low income apartments, but can of course qualify for the 5 market rate apartments.


Gabe said...

19th paragraph down in the press release that is the url I posted leads to.

"With a state median household income of $71,700, the targeted income ranges from $57,350 to $100,380, he said. There will be no rental subsidies. Rents will range from $900 to $1,200 a month, he said."

What I will admit to however is that if you read all of the press releases on the page there is some conflicting information. I understand being skepical of this development, but I do think that if there is some quality stuff in the commercial space (not dollar stores and nail salons) and they do up the buildings really nice then they will attract the folks they say they are looking to attract. Bancroft Commons is proof of that even without quality stuff in the commercial spaces, which I would bet will all be filled with good stuff a year from now.

Anonymous said...

Gabe, I think you have to understand that the income ranges that are targeted and the income ranges that will end up living there will probably be miles apart.

IMO, there is no way they will get $900 to $1200 per month for market rate apts in this area, I dont care how nice they are, MAYBE unless they get Section 8's in there.

I can get a nice apt in Tatnuck or Burncoat area in a nice 2 family house for $1000 which has off streeet parking for 2 cars, has a yard, has a cellar for storage, has a deck, and it's on a nice tree lined, quiet residential street. Contrast this with the Main & Madison site.

"There will be no rental subsidies"........what they s/b saying is "there are no rental subsidies PLANNED at this time"

I have a hard time seeing "quality commercial space" in there for 2 reasons... 1. people in that area typically do not have much so called discretionary disposable income and ... 2. those who do have it tend to avoid low income areas such as this area is. I have a hard time seeing women coming to that area to shop, especially given the types who always seem to be hanging out at the intersection od Main & Madison. I mean people wouldnt even come the Fashion Outlets which was in a nicer section of downtown.

BTW, wasnt this area originally touted as a proposed arts district just a few short years ago. What ever became of that idea/ terminology?

This project may very well end up being a mirror image of what happened when Soffan built that huge white pinnacle at Main & Madison back in the early 1900's. That project went belly soon after opening its doors and I beleive there was plenty of free gov't money involved in it, too. My understanding is that the place is filled with low income types and possibly some students?

City should have given the variance needed to put a McDonalds there 10 years ago.

Bill Randell said...


You are and I mising the two projects together. If you look solely at this one piece, we are discussing 45 apartments, of which 40 will be for low to moderate income.

If they build the rest of the project then the information you posted is correct, but that is for the other buildings if and when they get built.

I learned a long time ago not to base the project on what they plan to do in future, but what we have right now. This first building is low income apartments and I highly doubt if you make 57,000 to 100,000, you will qualify.

Again the rest of the project does seem alot more interesting, but this first stage is low income apartments, the last thing we need in the City of Worcester.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, but i just cannot see middle income, market rate type renters moving beside a 40 unit low income housing project that has inadequate parking at best..........additionally, I just cannot see middle income tenants living in that general area.

I mean you have to understand these low income types do know the difference between an automobile horn and a doorbell and too many of them go to bed at sunrise and start partying when the poor working stiff wants to come home e to some peace & quiet.......which is usually about 500 to 600 pm which also coincides with when the stereo starts playing at 100,000 decibels.....and it also coincides with when all the workers in the non=profit building businesses go home to Tatnuck or Burncoat or Holden St or the burbs.

Bill Randell said...

The thing we all need to understand here is that these plans for the other buildings can change very quickly depending on State/Federal funding. You need to judge this project by what has been funded and what is being built not on what may be built.

Right now the only thing that is being funded and constructed are 45 apartments, of which 40 are for low income. I will leave it up to you readers whether or not we need more housing like this.

When you consider the Aurora, the Odd Fellows, Standish and new building on May Street all within 1/2 mile, I think there comes a time when you need to say enough is enough.

Gabe said...

Jahn------ BANCROFT!

See it's the ignorance to what is going on at the Bancroft added to the attitudes I see here sometimes that leads me to believe that we're our own worst enemy. Even when things like getting the types of people downtown that we want to get downtown are working it is still ignored. Stop living in denial folks.

And Jahn, I wouldn't live in Burncoat or Tatnuck for $50 a month. I like city living. I can't walk to much in those neighborhoods. I am getting blue in the face here, but if you build and refurb nice places in the urban core within walking distance of neighborhood amenities (live theater, restaurants, bars, art galleries) people will live there. The Bancroft is an example of this that people should be following.

When was the last time you saw any ads in Worcester for property, house, condo or rental, that advertised amenities? Why is this such a foreign concept in Worcester?

The Highland/Elm neighborhood and Shrewsbury St neighborhood ads should be awash in amenities. "Live close to parks, restaurants, night life and museums." You never see that here. It is baffling!

Bill Randell said...


I think you are missing my point. Bancroft does a real nice job. That is a great project, we need more of this in the downtown to attract people like you downtown.

Give developers breaks to creat market value rental property. Just like they did for the Hanover, waive their permit fees and lock in the assessed value for ten years.

Instead we develop more low-income housing. That is where the confusion is on this post. Trust me, if the Hadley was being developed into 45 upscale market rate apartments, I would be the first one to cheer this project.
This, however, is not the case.



Anonymous said...

Gabe the only residences that I have seen built in the downtown area in the last 2 decades are Soffans White Pinnacle Tower and place on Linden st (called Linden Place?). Maybe I have fotgotten others? Everyone knows the Soffan story and the place on Linden St was supposed to be condo's and they almost went bust there, except I believe they may have had a very deep pocketed partner in on the deal. I am not sure to this day sure if they have all been sold as condos or if some units remain as rentals and that place was constructed in late 80's or early 90's and I believe they did have major vacancies there for a long time.

I guess from what you're saying the Bancroft re-hab has been a success and honestly it is a place I had forgotten about.

Gabe, you may not want to live in the Tatnuck or Burncoat area, but I strongly suspect you'd also not want to live in the Main & Madison St immediate area.

Yes, we do have a beautiful new theatre that is truly a masterpiece, but I am not so sure about other things like bars and restaurants (art galleries I am a bit clueless on) in your immediate area. I guess there is a coffee shoppe on the ground floor of the Bancroft and I am sure there are a few eateries in the area that cater to the 9 to 5 crowd. However, I think you'd have to hike over to Shrewsubury St or Maxwells for the type of restaurants I am thinking of.

Dont most of the bars in the greater downtown area cater more to single people in their 20's who typically dont live downtown?

Gabe, do you drive and if so how is the parking at the Bancroft and if you dont drive where do you go (walk?) to buy your groceries?

I do think we'll someday see more middle class market rate housing in the downtown..........but it's still years away......HOWEVER.... if low income housing makes it way into the downtown district.............then more middle class housing in the downtown is dead in the water.

Gabe said...

It takes me 4 minutes to walk into Green Island where there are a plethora of bars and restaurants. I can do all my grocery shopping on foot if I want to be stubborn, though I do admit that this is my one major problem with downtown. I have done all my grocery shopping on foot before though between Fairway, Widoff's, Tom's and Union Station Farms. When I lived in B-more I used to do all my shopping on foot all the time and that was a ten minute walk. That is all part of city living to me and believe it or not I love it. It's healthy. Alot healthier than getting in your car.

There is off street secure indoor parking that I have to pay extra for but I just chalk that up to living downtown in a city. I can't imagine what my monthly parking bill would be if I lived in downtown Boston.

By the way, re: Main and Madison, I am going to be looking to buy within the next couple of years. If the condos they are talking about building are close to being done by then (probably a pipe dream) and I can afford one I will seriously consider it. When that block is done that is going to be a cool little neighborhood.

I also want to say that I agree with everything said here regarding low income housing. It's ridiculous how much of it there is in this city and I am not a fan of the element it draws to the city.

Anonymous said...

Gabe........speaking of teh "arts"........ you may even get an add'l museum downtown....but it's a real stretch at this point.........

Bill Randell said...


I also see the potential in downtown. No lie I have worked downtown since 1986 and have my offices right at 78 Pleasant Street.

That said. Don't hold your breath for condos on Main and Madison Street. As I said before I hope that it happens, but I just do not see it being a reality.

On the other hand 45 apartments and 40 of them being for low income will be a reality.


Gabe said...

Jahn, what is this additional musuem you speak of? Spill the beans. If we don't have rumors in Worcester what do we have?

Bill Randell said...


I thought it was just me. What are you talking about?