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‘V’ is a Yes Vote for Vicksburg Square

March 27, 2012 : The Lowell Sun


It’s time for the residents of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley to decide the $83 million Vicksburg Square affordable-housing project in Devens.

Tomorrow night, residents in each community will vote at a special Super Town Meeting. Each town must approve the proposal by a simple majority in order for the project to move forward. Rejection in any one town kills the plan.

The Sun urges residents to look at the big picture of what this development can mean five years down the road, for Devens and all contiguous communities, as well as the state of Massachusetts, and vote to approve the project.

We see opportunity for a visually impressive housing complex on what is now the site of vacant and deteriorating Army barracks. It is a lifeless 19.6 acres. More so, we see a new chance at economic vitality for an area hit hard by the recession.

The developer, Trinity Financial of Boston, wants to convert the idle Vicksburg Square barracks into 246 rental apartments for senior citizens, active and retired U.S. military personnel, and low-income eligible tenants. The majority of the rehabbed housing will be reserved for veterans and their families.

With more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers due back home during the next two years from overseas missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, what better way to welcome Bay State veterans than with brand new, affordable housing as they transition back into civilian life. Ayer, Harvard and Shirley residents can be the first to say “thanks” for the soldiers’ sacrifice in a very meaningful way.

The state as a whole is in dire need of more affordable housing. Independent think-tanks have done study after study showing that the high cost of Massachusetts housing is a drag on economic growth. Workers paying top dollar for housing have less disposable income to purchase goods and services that drive small businesses.

A fully rented Vicksburg Square would breathe new life into the local economy.

Critics have asked good questions about the project’s impact on public services and how to pay for an increased population of children that will have to be enrolled in area schools. We believe the questions have been answered adequately and honestly. The project will add to the tax base and inspire new growth as Devens continues to expand.

While we cannot predict the future of Devens, it would be a shame to put such a reasonable project on hold because some argue that the financial numbers don’t fit tidily into a balance sheet of perfect expectations. The most successful projects begin as calculated risks, where the investment of time, energy and dollars from a host of well-intentioned people create a positive result. We see great potential in a revitalized Vicksburg Square. It has all the elements of becoming an inspirational hub of activity and progress and a wonderful home to new neighbors seeking a new start.

Vote “yes” in Ayer, Harvard and Shirley to approve Vicksburg Square.

© Copyright 2012 The Lowell Sun.