PROVINCETOWN — The next step toward a new housing complex at the site of the current police station at 26 Shank Painter Road should happen in January, Town Manager Alex Morse told the select board last week. Town staff are working on a request for proposals, which is a formal solicitation for contractors to bid for the right to build at the site, which the town purchased for use as a police station in 1984.
The new police station being built at the corner of Shank Painter Road and Route 6 is supposed to be ready for occupancy in October 2023, which will free up the site of the current station for other uses. The town conducted a community design process for housing at the parcel in 2019.
At the time, the public favored a design for 24 one-bedroom and studio apartments presented by municipal contractor Jennifer Goldson. But after last year’s housing workshops and an April town meeting vote for a zoning bylaw change to allow four-story buildings along Shank Painter Road, the town is now moving forward with a new proposal for the site that could accommodate about 36 units, Morse told the select board.
“We wanted to get a sense from the October housing workshop if people were interested in using the updated bylaw that would allow for four stories,” Morse said, “and I think, unanimously, people were for it.”
Laura Shufelt of the Mass. Housing Partnership, who is helping the town write the RFP, said that “a 30-ish number of units” would make the project eligible for the state tax credits and grants that are the primary funding source for affordable housing in the state, Morse told the board. Goldson had previously said that the police station site on its own might be too small to attract interest from a developer, so more units could help with that problem.
“With the VFW proposal, we were explicit about the density we wanted to see — that we wanted to maximize the number of units,” Morse said. “With this site, I think we need to discuss: are we willing to waive the parking requirements to get a bigger footprint, get more units out of it?”
Goldson’s drawings in 2019 included nine parking spaces for 24 units, which is fewer than the zoning bylaw would typically require. But at outreach sessions, townspeople supported the lower parking requirement because of 26 Shank Painter’s central location.
State-financed affordable housing projects are for people with incomes below 80 percent of area median income (AMI), which is currently $60,900 for one person and $69,600 for two people in Barnstable County. Select board members wanted to know how many units at 26 Shank Painter could be reserved for people at other income levels and whether any units could be set aside for firefighters or other town employees.
“As we look to go full-time with our fire department, have we assessed what our housing needs might be, and if we can work that into a project?” asked Chair Dave Abramson. The fire station is across the street from 26 Shank Painter, and the town has been planning to transition from an all-volunteer department to one that has several full-time firefighters as well as on-call volunteers.
“The town would have to provide a bigger subsidy for town-specific housing,” Morse said. “There are some pilot projects of teacher, firefighter, police officer housing in other communities,” he added, but projects eligible for state funding are paramount. The 65 apartments at the VFW site, for example, are projected to cost $37.8 million, more than 90 percent of which will come from the state.
Select board members asked Morse to find out what provisions the town could secure by raising its contribution to the project. Member Louise Venden, who is also on the board of the Year-Round Market-Rate Rental Housing Trust, said it could potentially direct money to the project to secure some units for people earning more than the state’s income limits.
“Municipal needs are certainly important,” Venden said, “but we also need to think about the needs of people who work at restaurants or any other business who are getting booted out of their housing.
“We need to make this housing fit the needs of people who live here and the money they make,” Venden said, “not just some AMI standard we always get locked into.”
“We can’t not have places for firefighters and EMTs,” said board member Leslie Sandberg. “We need that service.” Teachers and restaurant workers are important, too, she added.
“I talk to people who are displaced and doing the summer shuffle,” Sandberg said. “These are not going to be easy choices.” She said her highest priority was securing some units for firefighters.
Morse said he would look into the options that might come with various degrees of town funding contributions and bring a draft RFP to the board for discussion in early January.