Yesterday, on my way to Shaw’s for the weekly groceries, I made what was for me a long postponed first visit to an open house at Olde Medfield Square, and learned several surprising things.
- it is comprised of 42 customized and all different condo units of 2-3,000 sq. ft. each, on a total of under 7 acres, each selling for upwards of $1 m.
- 2 school children total live in the 25-27 homes that have been sold – one of whom just moved in and the other will graduate come June (so, basically, one school child)
- property taxes to the town will run $600,000+ per year, making it a major revenue generator, profit center for Medfield
- no architect was used, instead Ralph Costello, the developer, Sharon Bartelloni, his Marketing Director, and their staff just work out each unit on their own, saving about $25,000 per unit per Ralph
- they have copyrighted each design, so they can easily replicate the homes
- they have had requests form municipal officials in other towns, asking them to replicate the whole project in their towns
- original plans to construct four large five unit buildings along Rte. 27 were altered when they learned people preferred the detached, but closely situated units
- this density is allowed, as of right, in our RU zone in the downtown.
- I really like the look from having the garages in the rear
- while the units are close together, one can see that the fenestration is planned mainly on only one side of each unit, so that adjoining units do not have the feel of looking into one another’s homes
Lessons for Medfield: The business of Medfield can be providing the housing that draws people to town, as it is not just the schools that draw people to town. Given Medfeld’s distance from major highways, it will always be a hard sell to get large businesses and retail to locate in Medfield, so we cannot count on expanding our tax base in reliance on those fronts. Therefore, the town will be better served in the long run if it actively promotes more of the type of housing, such as Olde Medfield Square, that requires few municipal services. Such projects will balance our existing single family housing stock which attracts the high numbers of school children.
Ten years ago, as a new selectman attending a seminar on municipal issues sponsored by the Attorney General, I heard the former town planner for Lexington say that his studies in Lexington discovered that it averaged 1.5 school children per single family detached house, but only 0.15 school children per unit in attached housing. He recommended to us was building housing to increase our tax base, but the “right” type of housing.
The Olde Medfield Square example shows us that it it not just attached units that have fewer school children, it is also the densely packed detached units without yards large enough for a swing set. In addition to having dramatic curb appeal and providing a different housing option, these homes are a real fiscal win for the town.