By Josh Resnek
Public reports indicating that The Neighborhood Developers has pulled out of the Pope John affordable housing project were dismissed by the mayor last week during a contentious joint convention of the city council and the school committee discussing the fate of the former high school facility.
An official statement in the Leader Herald described exactly why TND was pulling out. It was signed by Rafael Mares, the head of TMD.
“We respect what the community wants,” Mares told the Leader during an interview last week following the city hall convention.
And it was his clearly articulated view as expressed in his public statement that the Everett community wants the former Pope John facility used as a school to mitigate overcrowding.
“My team is no longer working on this project. We’re not going to stand in the way of the overcrowding crisis in the Everett public schools to build affordable housing. The community needs to solve the overcrowding crisis,” added Mares, who is a lawyer.
“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,” Mares wrote.
He explained how his group came to their decision.
“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.”