When Mayor Flanagan decided to pull the 1.5 million that Bob Correia had pledged for a project at the YMCA I didn't know what to think. Flanagan's stance not to support low income housing downtown seemed like a good one, or at least it sounded good. Certainly I felt the same way when it came to the Durfee Textile building. Why should this be different? On the other hand the project seemed to have lots of support including from neighborhood groups.
The proposal would allow the YMCA to build out 42 low income units on the 3rd and 4th floors of the building. The units would be 300 square feet and include a small bathroom. Each floor would include a common room and shared kitchen. 31 of the units would be for individuals making up to 60% of the median income and 11 would be for those making up to 30% of the median income. The argument against is that is it more low income housing and housing downtown an area the city would like to see revitalized. The argument for is this is a different kind of low income housing that could serve the needs of artists and those just leaving college, amongst others. The overall proposal also includes much needed renovations and repairs for the entire building.
I still have some concerns but it's an interesting project and my concern isn't the introduction to 'low income' residents to Downtown, but the viability of renting these out to people. I think introducing some single people making up to $30k a year to Downtown might not be such a bad thing, but will they be interested in what is basically a one room studio that requires you to share a kitchen? My best estimate is that each unit has about 200 square feet of living space plus the bathroom. That's not bad. I think a quick trip to Ikea and you could outfit this pretty nicely. On top of that I certainly could see some nearby locations benefiting from some patronage.
But now that the Mayor had pulled the funding the Y's plans are in major jeopardy. Even worse, the Y was counting on the rental income to help them remain viable here in the city. So the Mayor's pulling the funds on the Y, may really be his pulling the plug on the Y. The Mayor says he is not pushing them out of the city, but certainly his decision may lead to just that.
Lefty's View: I had heard rumors that the YMCA needed this project to remain in their current building or perhaps just to remain in Fall River. Two questions immediately come to mind: 1. Is this a viable project that will benefit Fall River? Do we, as a city, want to risk losing the Y? Obviously if this is bad for Fall River we shouldn't do it, but I'm not sure it is bad. It sounds to me like this could be very much in line with some of the thinking that has been expressed for the arts overlay district. Considering the support this has gotten from other elected officials and the neighborhood association, I think the Mayor should give this another look and be more open minded to the possibilities. At the same time I wonder if there is any funding that could be allocated that wouldn't require the Mayor's approval. I'm not 100% sold on the project, but right now I'm positive that there is more upside in this proposal injecting some positive life into Downtown than an empty building would.