Second Charrette on Coast Guard Housing: More Questions than Answers

An aerial view of the "Coast Guard" housing on Pine Hill Road
An aerial view of the “Coast Guard” housing on Pine Hill Road

By Dot Bergin

Following the well-attended discussion of April 1, the architectural design firm Dewey Schmid Kearns (DSK), Concord, engaged townspeople in a second charrette on May 15 to come up with ideas for best use of the former Coast Guard housing site on Pine Hill Road. While the first charrette was more visionary, the second focused on design specifics for the property, with underlying financial assumptions.

Gene Clerkin, chair of the Bedford Housing Authority, introduced Jeff Dearing of DSK (also a Bedford resident and member of the Zoning Board of Appeals) who laid the framework for the evening: how would Bedford like to see the property developed? Who would purchase it?  Tom Kearns, DSK, posed these questions: can the Pine Hill property meet needs of the town? Answer is yes, the units could be reasonably priced and could meet a range of housing needs: 55+, co-housing, multi-generational, workforce housing, or entry-level housing for young couples.  The property would incorporate good design, sustainability, Universal Design Standards (accessibility) and community gardens.

Clerkin then presented a financial pro-forma, with these assumptions: rental for units would range from$1450 to $1800/month. He assumed a price of $390,000/per unit if each were sold. Three options were presented:

Option A: Renovate the existing homes and add 14 new cottages and a common building, for a total of 29 units, at slightly higher density than the existing property.

Option B: Remove the existing Coast Guard homes; build attached and single cottages, for a total of 35 units, with better organization of the open space.

Option C: Build single and attached cottages (12) plus 38 garden apartments for a total of 50 residences, with possibility of parking spaces below the apartments.  Options B and C are higher density, a proposal some of the audience found troubling.

Participants then took part in a “design exercise” similar to the first charrette.  Given colored dots, the audience indicated likes/dislikes for a variety of housing styles displayed on photographs. The spirited discussion that followed seemed to show that most attendees were attracted to a fairly traditional housing style as best suited to Bedford. Most agreed that the worst outcome for the Coast Guard site would be sale to a developer who would then erect four or five “million dollar plus” homes on the 15-acre property.

Although attendees spoke passionately about housing style, density and community needs, other key questions soon surfaced: Carol Amick queried “we don’t know when the GSA will put the property up for sale. We have no control of what GSA does with the property.” As to when the sale might take place, Town Manager Richard Reed said his latest conversation with the GSA suggested the sale would happen in early summer.

The idea behind the charrettes was to develop a coherent vision of what residents would like to see happen to the Coast Guard housing and to consider strategies to protect the town’s interests. Dearing concluded the meeting by thanking all participants and promising that an executive summary of both charrettes would be forthcoming.

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