Easton Shovel Shop Closing, Groundbreaking on Immediate Horizon
Groundbreaking at the former Ames Shovel Work expected for next week
By next Thursday, representatives of Beacon Communities LLC hope to have construction started at the site of the former Ames Shovel Works in Easton.
"We're a couple of days from finishing our financing and beginning to commence construction," Beacon Communities LLC CEO Howard Cohen said.
A special board of selectmen meeting was held Tuesday night to discuss the closing documents. A final closing is scheduled for Wednesday, April 11.
The documents, when signed, will involve a $4.35 million loan from Community Preservation Act funds to affiliates of Beacon Communities for the construction of 113 housing units (30 of which will be designated as affordable). The loan will have a 3 -percent interest rate.
Originally, the loan was in the amount of $4.5 million, but the project was able to secure $150,000 from Greater Attleboro-Taunton HOME Consortium funds.
Additionally, the town is providing a $3 million conservation restriction from Community Preservation Act funds for the property. The restriction ensures that there is open space available on the property that is open to the public.
It also helps ensure the buildings are preserved in a historical manner. Final documentation states that the Easton Historical Commission has oversight over all exterior changes to the structures, as well as the landscaping and signage.
The commission approved the project last September and October.
"You’ve got a very professional historic commission," Howard Cohen said. "[Development Director] Josh [Cohen] spent many nights there. I think many are thrilled with what we are proposing to build."
Howard Cohen added that the Shovel Shop project opened the doors for a number of other projects, including a wastewater treatment plant planned to service the Shovel Shop units and approximately 70 parcels in North Easton, improvements to Easton's Main Street, and the purchase of the Governor Ames Estate by the Trustees of Reservation, which is in close proximity to the Shovel Shops.
The state provided a $1 million grant for downtown revitalization, a $1.5 million grant for the sewer system and an additional $500,000 grant to the Trustees of Reservation for the Gov. Ames Estate purchase.
Cohen said the many projects, when completed, will provide a nice setting for the Shovel Shop units.
"What we think we’re building is 113 units in the middle of a park," he said. "It should be a phenomenal place to live. You can go outside and sit on your blanket and take walks."
The town and developers have been tying up loose ends in recent weeks.
A slight change to the financing of the project will benefit the town, Howard Cohen said.
Beacon will pay back the 3-percent interest on the loan sooner.
"We have to pay interest to the town at 3-percent on [$4.35] million loan," Cohen said. "The arrangement was we would split extra cash 50/50 for the beginning. If that wasn’t 3-percent it would accrue, but we would get our 50-percent and you would get your 50-percent."
Instead, there will be a fixed obligation and the town will receive its three percent interest before Beacon receives "its share," Cohen said.
While in the original agreement both Beacon and the town were expected to receive an estimated $80,000 per year in extra cash, the new agreement calls for the town to receive an estimated $130,000 and for Beacon to receive an estimated $30,000.
"The town’s position has been improved materially. That’s money that will be coming back to your CPA pot faster than projected," he said.
"It really has to do with the fact that for tax purposes, it was important that there was a fixed number."
Selectman Dan Murphy also asked that there be wording in the agreement that ensured that, after construction, the entire complex could not be made affordable. The request was made by a member of the finance committee, he said.
Rabecca Lee, a consultant for the town from Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, said she would try to adjust wording.
Developers and Easton Town Administrator David Colton are also working with the Department of Housing and Community Development over what Colton called in a recent letter to secretary Gregory Bialecki "the right thing to do" in regards to affordable housing.
Cohen and Colton would like a provision that ensures that the 30 affordable units in the complex remain in possession of those who qualify (households earning at or less than 60-percent of the area median income.)
The provision calls for the lease of the tenant to end should the household's income exceed 85-percent of the median income of the area for two consecutive lease terms.
Colton said the current state policy is "anti-eviction."
Howard Cohen said the matter does not have to be resolved until occupancy begins.
"This is something that we can continue working on, because it doesn’t really end until we sign our first lease," he said.
Josh Cohen said there will be approximately 18 months of construction before tenants begin to move in.
Should all go according to plan, the first residents will move into the Shovel Shops in November of 2013.
UPDATE: To view drafts of the closing documents, click here.