HARVARD -- Selectman Ron Ricci on Tuesday night shared news about ongoing plans to renovate and reuse Great Elms, the town's singular affordable-housing complex, updating his colleagues on the progress of the project since the Chelmsford Housing Authority last visited to give the board an overview of its plans.
With the property set to be transferred to the CHA "choice" group, the first phase of the action plan is relocating current tenants, said Ricci, who serves on the Harvard Affordable Housing Trust. The relocation process should be completed by the beginning of August, with the property transfer wrapped up by the end of the month.
Unfortunately, the barn can't be saved. According to a state engineer who inspected buildings on the property, the barn won't be part of the re-do, Ricci said.
Another challenge might not be as simple to solve. "One of the tenants has a child in the Harvard Public Schools," Ricci said. As a parent, he can appreciate the tenant's desire to maintain continuity in the child's education, he said, but with few if any affordable rental units available in town for the family to move into, the HAHT is seeking a solution.
They asked, for example, whether there's a way for an unsold "40B" unit to be temporarily leased to the tenant. The answer was no, but the CHA is looking into other options, Ricci said, noting that the displacement is likely to last about two years, which is the timeframe for completing the project.
In any case, the units will be vacant and the property transferred to the CHA by the end of August, Ricci reiterated. In the meantime, there are plans in the works to begin "outreach" in the neighborhood to air the rehab plans.
Some visionary architectural elements on the restoration map tie in a couple of vintage features that may or may not make the final cut -- a fountain and a bridge over Bowers Brook. Both structures are apparently in place but haven't been functional for some time.
Ricci said the aim is to hold public information sessions in the fall, after well and septic designs have been approved and the CHA has secured funding for the project.
Some of the information neighbors may want to know now: The plans show nine units, "no more, no less," Ricci said.
Then there's the money issue. Marie Sobalvarro noted that when CHA made a presentation to the board in early April, they were seeking $3 million from the state and matching funds from the trust.
That figure has been more than halved since, Ricci said, but there's "still some expectation" for a local contribution.
"In the end, I think it's going to be a very good solution," Chairman Lucy Wallace said, with nine new units added to the town's state-mandated affordable-housing quota.
"The only way they can make a go of it is with subsidies," Ricci concluded. "Otherwise, the project wouldn't be viable."