The following letter was sent to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission:
On behalf of the Island Housing Trust, I would like to offer the following recommendations regarding Stop & Shop’s proposal in downtown Vineyard Haven. As a neighbor, the Island Housing Trust has the following concerns.
The Island Housing Trust owns the property directly abutting the proposed Stop & Shop development at 6 Water Street in Vineyard Haven. A conceptual plan has been developed by Island Housing Trust’s architect James Weisman from Terrain Associates to create five rental apartments within one loft-style building. The goal of the design is to compliment the existing harbor district neighborhood and provide livable, energy-efficient, affordable in-town rental housing. One of our stated design principles is to promote a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly oriented neighborhood. Our conceptual plan has our building setback 30 feet from the sidewalk to approximately where the existing residential building is located in order to help delineate the property’s public, semi-public and private spaces. In an effort to maximize the building’s south facing and solar aspect, our proposed building has been set back seven feet from the northern property line against Stop & Shop’s proposed three-story façade.
The Island Housing Trust desires to coordinate efforts with Stop & Shop to create an integrated walking path between Water street and Cromwell Lane to allow greater pedestrian access within the downtown area. Finally, the Island Housing Trust would like Stop & Shop to ensure that any ventilation or exhaust from the enclosed parking area or supermarket be located far enough away from our 6 Water Street residential property to mitigate any noise, smell or other nuisances. As a community development corporation and community land trust, the Island Housing Trust would like to also offer the following observations and recommendations.
Large anchor institutions such as Stop & Stop wield considerable economic power in our community. From the food they purchase and sell to the people they employ, Stop & Shop’s two supermarkets on Martha’s Vineyard are responsible for millions of dollars coming into and leaving our local economy. Where and how Stop & Shop chooses to build will greatly affect the surrounding downtown area. The MVC and the town of Tisbury’s thoughtful decision-making regarding this real estate development can help leverage Stop & Shop’s potential to benefit our community in a way that creates healthy places, stimulates economic growth and supports the local housing needs.
Clearly, Stop & Shop has the potential to bring crucial — and measurable — benefits to our community and local economy. Many supermarket chains and other community anchor institutions have recognized this potential and have become increasingly engaged with their communities. A few have gone so far as to adopt a mission that consciously seeks to apply their economic and institutional power to better the long-term welfare of local residents. Building local wealth through developing and improving local business capacity is one way for anchor institutions to support their community. In practice this means local hiring, workforce development, local purchasing and economic inclusion strategies that work to increase economic opportunities for local residents and improve quality of life while also meeting its own service and purchasing needs. Working to increase the capacity of local nonprofits that support small businesses, such as the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, is one way Stop & Shop can foster the growth of local businesses. Supporting programs that maintain permanent affordable rental and ownership housing is another way Stop & Shop can invest in workforce housing solutions. A meaningful investment by Stop & Shop in the Island Housing Trust’s neighboring project at 6 Water Street would be a direct way of engaging in and addressing the community’s significant need for affordable rental housing.
The Island Housing Trust believes that this type of community engagement will yield important benefits for both our community and anchor institutions on Martha’s Vineyard, including Stop & Shop.
The writer is executive director of the Island Housing Trust.