$22.6M nets 48 units, food-pantry space, set-asides for homeless
The Housing Corporation of Arlington, a nonprofit in transition, has scheduled a ribbon-cutting for two projects, years in the making, that are expected to result in 48 units of housing described as affordable and 2,500 square feet of community food-pantry space.
Five of the housing units are set aside for the homeless who will receive subsidies and services from the Somerville Homeless Coalition, the HSA says. Funding for the projects totaled $22.6 million when it was approved in 2019.
The name of the project -- the Downing Square Broadway Initiative -- combines two town locations, one in East Arlington and one near the Heights.
Down at 22 Academy St., AFD Theatre is abuzz with activity. There are just a couple rehearsals left before opening night, and it’s time to work out the final kinks. The technical crew are running through their light and sound cues, while Charlotte Kelley, the props and set dresser, is adding final touches.
“Most people don’t realize how many people it takes to put on a show,” said Ginger Webb, Arlington resident and co-production manager. “More than a dozen people worked to build and paint the set. Volunteers made the drapes and pillows, and even reupholstered an old Victorian couch to match the dark themes of the set.”
Another dozen volunteers are in charge of costumes, hair and makeup, publicity, box office, refreshments, lights, sound, ushering and set design. “Only the director and stage manager get a modest stipend. For everyone else, it’s a labor of love,” she said.
“Arlington leads other local towns in child vaccination rates, and is in the top 90th percentile,” said Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine at the Nov. 29 Select Board meeting.
Chapdelaine offered “thanks and high compliments” to Christine Bongiorno, the Health and Human Services Department, schools' Superintendent Elizabeth Homan and her department, the fire and police departments, “who quickly put together these clinics.”
Board member Eric Helmuth said, “Arlington is the talk of the state right now on social media. Hats off to parents in making everyone safer. It’s a credit to our community that we’re able to come together so quickly to get a jump on this. Thanks to the team for their hard work.”
UPDATED Nov. 29: Nearly three weeks after a public presentation of the town's draft plan for housing, town officials have released to the public a full draft of the housing plan on Monday, Nov. 29.
The draft is for public review and comment. The five-year plan replaces the town’s 2016 Housing Production Plan, which expires this month.
Informed by data, research, and community engagement, the plan shares a vision and specific ways that Arlington can lead on providing housing options for a range of people. The plan includes a comprehensive housing needs assessment, affordable housing goals, and outlines strategies for how to achieve those goals through policy and zoning changes, new programs and funding sources.
UPDATED Nov. 30: Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine updated the Select Board on Nov. 22 about the lack of safety-improvement progress on the Chestnut Street/Mystic Avenue intersection, where resident Ann B. Desrosiers was struck and fatally injured on Dec. 31, 2019.
“In July, MassDOT [Massachusetts Department of Transportation] approved our recommendations, and on July 22 we formally presented MassDOT those plans,” Chapdelaine said.
MassDOT must approve this project.
“After several months of not hearing back, the town engineer followed up with MassDOT on Nov. 9, who then asked the town to resubmit its plans. On Nov. 16, MassDOT said they’ll review and respond, so we’re now back on MassDOT’s radar,” explained Chapdelaine.
“I spoke with our state representative Sean Garballey. MassDOT is reviewing the materials, and once they review them, we’ll hear back.
The Verizon antenna contract for telecommunications equipment on the roof of the Hauser building in Arlington Heights drew the attention of the Arlington Housing Authority (AHA) board at its regular monthly meeting Nov. 17 for a number of reasons, affecting the board and residents.
The seven-story building, home to elderly and disabled residents, is the seventh tallest building in Arlington, an advantageous feature for rooftop installation of wireless transmission equipment.
According to Steel in the Air, a company that negotiates lease agreements between property owners and wireless carriers and cell-tower companies, rooftop sites can provide a coverage radius of up to 25 miles to transmit cell phone signals to and from mobile phones to a rooftop receiver – or as far away as Gillette Stadium, Salem and Framingham.
Last July, the board considered a consent letter from Verizon to modify the existing wireless facility at the Hauser building. The special meeting, which was not part of its regular monthly board schedule, went into closed session, and the meeting minutes, while posted to the website, do not contain publicly available information.
Adam Estapa had already passed two exams needed to become a licensed optician when he was stymied by the third: It was on paper, and he had to fill in little bubbles to show his answers. The problem was he couldn't see them very well.
Estapa, 41, is legally blind. The earlier exams were on the computer, where he could enlarge those omnipresent exam bubbles. But this test? The testers said no. He got a 35 and failed.
So he challenged the testing protocols and, with the help of the American Board of Opticianry was able to take the final test on the computer. He passed. Easily
Now he is the only legally blind optician in Massachusetts, he says. He and his wife, Rachel Estapa, opened Perception Optical at 60 Mass. Ave. in May 2020, two months after Covid hit town. While they have a range of clients, they especially enjoy helping people with low vision since Adam is well aware of some of their stumbling blocks.
The town Zoning Board of Appeals has approved, 5-0, the permit for the proposed development of Thorndike Place -- a key step for the long-stalled housing plan for the 17-acre Mugar site near Route 2.
But the unanimous vote comes with a lengthy series of conditions to which the developer, Oaktree Development of North Cambridge, must adhere.
For a summary of the Monday, Nov. 22, session, see meeting notes by Steve Revilak, who is an associate board member and did not vote in this matter. He provides these notes as a public service.
The board has been meeting since April about the permit for the project, first proposed in 2015 and opposed by town officials from the start, largely because of flooding and traffic.
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