My Turn: Main Street could use some high-end condos
More than $10 million has recently been committed in an effort to rehabilitate Concord’s Main Street. The merits of the plan were debated in lengthy discussions. One glaring omission is the absence of building plans that include premium residences in the Main Street Corridor.
We have a strong presence of subsidized, low-income and affordable rental units available and more on the way. CATCH has 81 rental units available in the Main Street corridor. What we do not have is a viable presence of upscale, up-market, owner-owned condos. Developers have been reluctant to invest and speculate on offering these type of units, fearing that they may not find potential buyers willing to locate in an area where they fear their investment will be depreciated by too many lower-income rental units.
I disagree with that premise.
Not everyone with a high disposable income wants to move to Bow or Hopkinton. Some people, including retirees and empty nesters, would gladly exchange their large homes in Concord for a lovely and spacious condo residence on Main Street. In addition to the benefits of not having to mow lawns, shovel snow and deal with home maintenance, they would not have the nuisance of traveling in and out of the city. A building that offered amenities including roof gardens, balconies, dedicated parking spots, a restaurant, specialty shops, a fitness club and other professional services would be a welcomed addition to Main Street.
If Main Street is to succeed as a vibrant and healthy engine of economic and cultural viability, then the city government should institute a moratorium that ensures that any future housing development in the Main Street corridor be based on a fair amalgamation of affordable and upscale housing units. A fair ratio may be five to one: For every five market-rate rental housing units built, one premium condo unit must also be built.
We should not continue down the path of present de facto housing segregation and reverse discrimination.
Main Street should be welcoming to all strata of commercial and residential interests. Residents with high disposable incomes will add a missing component to the current Main Street housing market, increase the property tax base and ensure that Main Street will prosper and add to the quality of life in downtown Concord.
(Jim Baer lives in Concord.)