Leefort Terrace Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

1. Why is Leefort Terrace being redeveloped?

Leefort Terrace is a State Public Housing development for elderly and disabled households adjacent to Collins Cove in Salem, MA.  Built in 1958, the 3.1 acre development is comprised of 50 1-bedroom units clustered in 7 one-story garden apartment style buildings, plus a building consisting of a small community room. Massachusetts stands out in that it has developed and funds State Public Housing. However, overtime the operating subsidy available has not kept up with current operating and maintenance cost.  The Salem Housing Authority (SHA) receives approximately $420/unit/month in rent including utility costs. Residents pay 30% of their income towards rent and the State pays the difference, up to $420/month.  This incredibly low rental income makes it very difficult for SHA to cover all the capital needs of the development.  No significant modernization has been possible since it was built in 1958. As a result, the units and buildings are in poor condition and have nearly reached the end of their useful life. Without any action, these units could become uninhabitable, displacing the Leefort Terrace residents.  Built to standards more than six decades out of date and located in a floodplain that does not allow residential housing units on the ground floor, redevelopment of Leefort Terrace is the only option. 

 

2. Who will oversee the redevelopment of Leefort Terrace?

The Salem Housing Authority issued a Request for Proposals in Winter 2020 to select a development partner to assist SHA in exploring the redevelopment of Leefort Terrace. This led to SHA selecting Beacon Communities as its partner. Based in Boston, Beacon Communities LLC is a national leader in developing and managing best-in-class affordable housing, mixed-income housing, and public-private partnerships. Together the SHA and Beacon will oversee the redevelopment of Leefort Terrace and be the long term co-owners. Beacon Communities will be the property manage the property. You can learn more about Beacon here.

 

3. What work has gone on related to the redevelopment of Leefort Terrace & what are the next steps?

The Salem Housing Authority and Beacon Communities have pulled together a creative and inventive design and engineering team to collect initial information about the condition and constraints of the Leefort Terrace site. Working with Regenesis Group and the design team, SHA and Beacon have been undertaking a collaborative approach to planning and implementing the replacement of the obsolete Leefort apartments and creation of a newly imagined Leefort Terrace in a way that harmonizes our mission with the aspirations of residents and Salem as a whole to create a development process and ultimately a development with positive impact.  Various stakeholders have shared their perspectives with us on what makes Salem unique and what might be missing. Through this regenerative and iterative process has evolved a development that is set to harmonize with the community and natural systems while also serving as a catalyst and inspiration upon which other groups and individuals can build.  The team has made many adjustment to the size and site plan based on communmity feedback and will continue to do so during the permitting process expected to begin in May 2022.

 

4. Will this be affordable or market rate housing? Rental or condos?

Beacon Communities initially proposed a mix of public housing (replacing all 50 existing), affordable, and market rate apartments.  Based on community feedback, we have changed to an all affordable approach—a mix of public housing and affordable housing for working households. The redeveloped Leefort Terrace will be 100% affordable rental housing restricted to households with very low-, low- and moderate-incomes. The incomes of households living at the new development will be restricted to residents making very low incomes of 30% of Area Median Income (AMI), low incomes of 50% of AMI and moderate incomes of 60% of AMI.

 

5. Will the redevelopment be age restricted to seniors?

We anticipate that the new Leefort Terrace will consist of intergenerational housing, including the 50 untis for returning Leefort Terrace elderly and disabled households and possibly an additional 15 units for Elderly Families.  We expect the balance of the Leefort Terrace community to be filled with very low income and working households of all ages.

 

6. Will current Leefort residents be permanently displaced?

No. While current residents will be temporarily relocated offsite during construction, all residents in good standing will have the right to return to the newly redeveloped Leefort Terrace. Beacon and SHA will be responsible to cover all costs associated with relocation. We will hire a very well-regarded affordable housing relocation consultant, Housing Opportunities Unlimited, that will work individually with each resident throughout the entire relocation process to help them find the best fit for their temporary relocation needs. Upon return to the new building, Leefort Terrace residents will continue to pay 30% of their income towards rent, as they do today.  

 

7. Why do you need to construct a new building on the site? Can’t you renovate the existing buildings?

Redeveloping Leefort Terrace is a rescue mission for these current 50 low-income elderly and disabled households, and future households who will call Leefort Terrace home. Given that these 50 1-bedroom units are all on the ground floor in garden style buildings in a coastal floodplain, the State and Federal regulations will not allow for renovation in their current configuration. In order for these public housing to remain in perpetuity, it must be rebuilt in a configuration that removes the apartments from the flood plain, such as building the units on a podium.  If nothing is done to rebuild these units, they will continue to be exposed to flooding, which will worsen due to more frequent and stronger storm surges already happening. Expected sea level rise will put these garden style units at further risk of being under water resulting in mold growth and ultimately the displacement of the 50 low-income elderly and disabled households who live at Leefort Terrace.  

 

8. Has the team established sustainability goals for the redevelopment?

Being environmentally positive is a HUGE goal of the redevelopment. Early on in the process the team establish sustainability goals that will guide future planning, while simultaneously keeping in mind the financial constraints of the project. Those goals are:

    • Resiliency: The site will be designed to address current and future flood risk. The building will strive to be a resiliency hub and will seek additional funding to provide reliable backup power in the case of a power outage.
    • Environmentally Positive: The building and site will be designed with as many carbon sequestrating, and regenerative materials as possible, with the aim to minimize embodied carbon (carbon emissions today during the harvesting, manufacturing and construction process). Demolished building materials will be reused where feasible. New building materials will be specified that reduce life cycle greenhouse gas emission. The landscaping will be designed using approaches that allow for carbon sequestration in the plants and soil.
    • Low Energy Building Design: The building will be designed and built to achieve Passive House (PHIUS+) certification stive to be Net Zero or carbon neutral. The aim is to provide on-site renewable energy generation.
    • Healthy and Human Centered Design: The site and building will be designed to protect abutting properties, connect the residents and the public to Collins Cove and maximize community open space. It will be universally accessible. Material selection will also focus on healthier materials and indoor air quality.

 

9. Should you be restoring this land to wetlands?

Like much of Salem, Leefort Terrace site is in a coastal floodplain where managing flooding and sea level rise is the concern; it is not a tidal floodplain where restoring wetland and creating infiltration into the soil would improve the problem. The Leefort Terrace redevelopment must be built in a manner such that any residential living unit must be built above the flood plain using conservative predictions of sea level rise. However, the low impact, green design of our landscaping approach in the Leefort site and the public park we will construct, including bioswales, raingardens and improved soil retention will help during storms to hold water on the site for longer, rather than going right back into the soil and infiltrating down into the cove and raising flood levels even higher during the storm.  

 

10. Why here? Why do you have to rebuild on this site?

Most development sites have both positive and challenging aspects.  It’s not uncommon for there to be questions from neighbors who are uncomfortable with what this change will mean for the aesthetic and feel of their community. We have heard these questions already about this site and have been working to create a site plan and approach that takes as many concerns as possible. The 50 units at Leefort Terrace need to be replaced. Due to public housing operating economics and economies of scale, the state public housing cannot be operated in a financially sustainably manner without being part of a larger development that includes other affordable and/or market rate apartments.  The Leefort Terrace land is already owned by the Salem Housing Authority and legally dedicated to affordability to lower income households.  Land costs are too high for the purchase of another site location to be feasible.  Any other site would also likely bring up similar questions of “Why here?”.  Our concepts and goals for how to design seek to mitigate the impacts while providing much needed housing in an area close to amenities and transportation and greatly enhancing underutilized, vacant parcels into a beautiful public park. We realize that there are many competing perspectives and goals. Any development likely won’t make everyone completely happy, but we hope as the process continues and plans are presented and revised, results can be achieved that replace the existing public housing in a manner that is economically and environmentally sustainable, and harmonizes with broader goals and assets of the residents of Salem.  

 

11. What will happen to the adjacent underutilized city parcels? Will there be public benefit?

The approximately 2-acres of underutilized City-owned parcels adjacent to Leefort Terrace have been used as staging for the bike path and have been unable to be improved over time.  We are hopeful that The City of Salem will explore converting that that area into a public amenity space with direct access to Collins Cove, and look forward to collaborating with them to integrate that design into the landscape design of Leefort Terrace, should the City move forward. 

 

12. What accessibility features and program will you have for residents?

Seven units will be fully accessible, 3 will be adapted for people with visual and sensory impairments, and additional units will be adaptable. The building will have elevator access to all units, and all units will be visitable and built to Universal Design Standards.  We will strive to create an age-friendly development complete with a wellness center and social programming through Beacon’s resident services program.  You can find more information on Beacon’s residential services and engagement work here.

 

13. How much parking will you be providing onsite? 

The redeveloped Leefort Terrace will include 65 affordable senior family units and 59 open occupancy affordable units. On-site parking will be provided for approximately 100 vehicles (parking ratio of 0.81 parking spaces per unit), including 86 covered spaces at the garage under the building and 14 surface spaces. In order to establish base traffic-volume conditions within the study area, Vanasse & Associates Inc. conducted a Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) in February 2022.  The TIA concluded that the demographics of the new building has a parking demand for 88 parking spaces, which is below the proposed supply of 100 parking spaces.  Currently only 50% of Leefort Terrace residents own cars, and in other Beacon affordable housing developments in the North Shore, car ownership rates are less than one car per household. 

 

14. What impact on traffic will the new development have on the surrounding area?

Vanasse & Associates Inc's Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) in February 2022 estimated that given the low car ownership expected at Leffort Terrace, the redevelopment will generate 28 vehicle trips in morning and 39 in afternoon, which is less than a car a minute. These projections do not include removal of existing trips. All traffic will come in and out of Fort Ave and will no longer connect to Webb Street. Fort Ave currently has significantly less with volumes of 222 cars in the morning and 217 in the evening compared with Webb Street, which has 603 in the morning and 545 in the evening. 

The Traffic Assessment included an analysis of the impact of the two specific developments by others in proximity to the property-the proposed power plant and offshore wind marshalling yard facility at the Salem Harbor Footprint property and the Pioneer Village/Camp Naumkeag Relocation.  When each project seeks their permits, it is expected that they will need to coordinate their construction management plan with that of Leefort, should any of the construction period overlap. However, given the times of day each will be in construction and operation, no adverse impact is expected on the roadways as a result.

 

15. What wage rates will construction workers make?

As this is a public project, construction wages will be set at State prevailing wages levels. Prevailing wages are set by the Department of Labor based on region. Those rates are typically higher than general construction wage rates and provide a living wage for the people who will be building the new Leefort Terrace development.

 

16. How will Leefort get zoning approvals?

For Zoning Approval and permitting we will be seeking a Chapter 40B Comprehensive Permit through the Zoning Board of Appeals. We will also need to get approval from the Salem Conservation Commission, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and Chapter 91 Waterways. During each of these approval processes there will be opportunities for public comments.