Condominiums Get a Bad Rap
As the Fort neighborhood (Birdseye) zoning discussions move forward, the anti-condominium crowd once again advances its agenda of smoke and mirror scare tactics. This fiery political rhetoric is really warmed over political spin. As a two-time condo owner over the past ten years, I take exception to their persistent, false assertions.
Not long after returning from the service in 1961, I had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with our own famous Gloucester economist, Roger Babson. This question was asked: what advice would you have for a young man like me who wants to live and raise his family in Gloucester? Babson’s answer: there is only so much waterfront property; it is Gloucester’s most important asset. Whenever one has a chance to buy waterfront land, he should make every effort to do so. Cape Ann is in general a granite rock pile with large tracts of interior unbuildable acreage. Shoreside residential development is essential to Gloucester’s future as a growing vibrant community. Babson’s advice in 1963!
At a social gathering some years ago, a prominent local business man said this: The City of Gloucester should award John McNiff a medal for what he has given the city. McNiff took an antiquated piggery and dairy farm, sited on a challenging hilly, rocky acreage and transformed it into a national award-winning condominium community with an ocean view. Nugent Farm condominium complex is a no-maintenance “cash cow” for Gloucester..... that keeps on giving!
Hawthorne Point, Thorwald and Rockaway condominiums are other successful examples of cost effective multi-unit housing development, all quietly returning big dividends to city coffers.
These are the facts:
1. Condos generate higher real estate tax dollar volume on minimal land area, demanding fewer city services.
2. Condo housing takes advantage of excellent locations and smaller land areas, capitalizing on economies realized through clustered townhouse/condo designs.
3. Condos are often owned by older “empty nesters”, frequently vacant during the calendar year, eliminating any school demands and reducing the need for full city services.
4. Condo owners are responsible for the maintenance of their internal infrastructure, common area roads, snow plowing, landscape services, trash removal, etc. .....at no cost to the city.
5. The condo concept has made prime location waterfront living affordable to a larger tax-paying population.
6. Condo ownership is not for everyone; it is a sensible and efficient lifestyle that fits a perceived need by a diverse group of housing consumers.
As Roger Babson observed, shelter is a basic need. Cape Ann’s available residential land mass is minimal. We must be constantly vigilant, seeking out opportunities to increase the housing tax base. In an era of unfunded federal and state mandates, requiring city-wide sewer and water infrastructure improvements, schools, and expanded city services, demanding millions of dollars in added municipal investments, etc.; I ask, where is the increased tax revenue coming from?
The Fort’s residential and commercial community is a unique geographical area in our city. It will always be. Obsolete industrial buildings and undeveloped prime waterfront land presently disrupts and impedes this neighborhood. There has never been any intention to change its character. Fish, fertilizer, ice, lobsters, and retail entrepreneurial activity make this mixed area distinctly Gloucester. Because of its allure, nestled in a seaside location, it provides a special “step back in time” living experience, reminiscent of another romantic era. For decades the Fort residents have recognized and guarded this magnetism. Anyone moving there seeks the area for this very uniqueness. That allure is the attraction! In the final analysis, we are all custodians of this land that we live on. It only makes common sense that the area’s potential be fully realized.