A second hotel is going up in Devens, such is the demand for lodgings by business travelers frequenting this area. The Devens Common is still beautifully groomed, thanks to the funding of MassDevelopment, but other than the hotel, the Devens “downtown” is quiet.
Devens continues to represent an unfulfilled promise and while its future remains unknown, there is considerable potential.
The guiding light on the way forward should be the Joint Boards of Selectmen. The Joint Boards is comprised of selectmen from Ayer, Harvard and Shirley, the towns from which the majority of the land was taken when Fort Devens was constructed in 1916-17.
Harvard selectmen want to task Ayer, Harvard and Shirley town administrators with finding a way forward for Devens. Ayer won’t go along with the idea, seeming to feel that the course for Devens should be guided by elected officials.
The most pressing issue before the three towns right now is the proposed construction of nearly 300 largely affordable housing units in the historic Vicksburg Square buildings. Kudos to Harvard for taking on the job of analyzing the proposal. At face value, the idea of putting 80 percent “affordable” apartments there is ludicrous as is the notion that these people could thrive in a development built around walking and biking as the major modes of transportation.
The future course of Devens is important, and not just to the folks who invested in Devens, believing the selling point of Devens as the next new town in Massachusetts.
The towns must decide: Do they want Devens as an independent community or as an industrial park from which they can siphon revenue. If the selectmen that comprise the Joint Boards can’t agree on anything, and they can’t, putting some homework in the hands of town administrators isn’t such a bad idea.
What’s needed is a leader people like and respect, someone like former selectman Leo Blair of Harvard.
Leo — you busy?