Over the past weeks, I have been approached by many Everett residents. They each made a point of telling me that they appreciate the details of The Neighborhood Developers’ (TND) proposal to build affordable homes at the closed Pope John School, but that it just isn’t the right time or place for it. Overcrowded classrooms call for a school to remain a school. And while it unfortunately may not be as easy as opening the doors and letting the students in, we at TND appreciate the call for the Pope John School to be renovated so that it can service public school students in Everett.
In 2019, the City Council and administration saw the closed Pope John School site as an opportunity to address another crisis Everett is facing, the desperate need for affordable homes. When in the Fall of 2020 the City issued a request for proposals to convert the Pope John School into affordable housing, we responded. We were the only team that did. No one else wanted to take on the challenge. Our proposal included affordable rental homes for seniors, veterans, and families with the strongest possible preference for Everett residents. We proposed a new building that would provide an attractive buffer for neighbors on Cameron, Lafayette, and Shute Streets and be better connected with Broadway and Wehner Park. Putting together a financially viable proposal was not an easy thing to do at a time when construction costs alone are too expensive to make any new home affordable without some type of subsidy. In June 2021, we were selected as the developer for the site. While the pandemic may have pulled all of us in different directions, our team at TND continued to refine the concept.
When in June 2022 the City Council considered the next step, the land disposition from the City to TND, the City Councilors astutely observed that the circumstances may have changed over the last few years. I admit, it was painful for us to watch after all the work we had invested and with the knowledge that the need for affordable homes in Everett has only escalated, but it was reasonable. The City Council therefore asked us to convene a community meeting to get feedback on the proposal; so we organized three events to make sure as many of the neighbors and other residents of the city could make it. What we learned, in part, was that another problem, the shortage of classrooms, was more pressing. While Pope John may not solve the whole space problem for Everett Public Schools, it could be one of the quicker ways to alleviate some of the pressure. We are honored to unwittingly have played a catalyst role to make that happen. To be clear, we are no longer working on the vision to transform the closed Pope John School into affordable homes.
Why, you ask. TND, despite the D in our name standing for “developers,” isn’t really a developer in the common sense of the word. As the N for “neighborhood” in our name suggests, our focus is broader. We develop affordable homes in Chelsea, Revere, and Everett so that residents can stay in their communities. We are a nonprofit, mission-based organization. We do more than build real estate. Our goal is to counter displacement, to create beautiful homes for residents of our communities and to support them after they move in. Our mission is to create strong neighborhoods enabling community members to secure a stable home, achieve economic mobility, and determine their own future. I encourage you to check out our website (www.theneighborhooddevelopers.org).
As to the other challenge, there undoubtedly is still a housing crisis in Everett. Did you know that according to the 2020 Census over 50% of Everett residents spend more than 30% of their income on housing? Were you aware over 27% spend more than 50% of their income to have a roof over their head? That’s not sustainable. Eleven percent of Everett’s residents are 65 or older and almost 2.3% are veterans. There is a real risk of displacement for many Everett residents. TND remains ready to work with the City, residents, and non-profit partners to counter displacement, including through the creation of affordable homes. Feel free to email me with ideas, I’m all ears.
The Neighborhood Developers (TND)