Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to some of the most common questions about Leefort Terrace.
Leefort Terrace is a State Public Housing development for elderly and disabled households adjacent to Collins Cove in Salem, MA. Built in 1958, the 3.1 acre development is comprised of 50 1-bedroom units clustered in 7 one-story garden apartment style buildings, plus a building consisting of a small community room.Massachusetts stands out in that it has developed and funds State Public Housing. However, overtime the operating subsidy available has not kept up with current operating and maintenance cost.The Salem Housing Authority (SHA) receives approximately $420/unit/month in rent including utility costs. Residents pay 30% of their income towards rent and the State pays the difference, up to $420/month. This incredibly low rental income makes it very difficult for SHA to cover all the capital needs of the development.No significant modernization has been possible since it was built in 1958. As a result, the units and buildings are in poor condition and have nearly reached the end of their useful life. Without any action, these units could become uninhabitable, displacing the Leefort Terrace residents.Built to standards more than six decades out of date and located in a floodplain that does not allow residential housing units on the ground floor, redevelopment of Leefort Terrace is the only option.
The Salem Housing Authority and Beacon Communities have pulled together a creative and inventive design and engineering team to collect initial information about the condition and constraints of the Leefort Terrace site. Working with Regenesis Group and the design team, SHA and Beacon have been undertaking a collaborative approach to planning and implementing the replacement of the obsolete Leefort apartments and creation of a newly imagined Leefort Terrace in a way that harmonizes our mission with the aspirations of residents and Salem as a whole to create a development process and ultimately a development with positive impact.Various stakeholders have shared their perspectives with us on what makes Salem unique and what might be missing. Through this regenerative and iterative process has evolved a development that is set to harmonize with the community and natural systems while also serving as a catalyst and inspiration upon which other groups and individuals can build. The Chapter 40B Comprehensive Permit was approved for Leefort Terrace by the Salem Zoning Board of Appeals in October 2022, the Salem Conservation Commission has completed its review of the project and has granted approval in November 2022, and the City Council has approved the Urban Center Housing Tax-Increment Financing (UCH-TIF) Agreement in January 2023. The development team is now working to finish assembling the financing and work with residents on a plan for temporary relocation. We are targeting November/December 2023 to begin construction.
Redeveloping Leefort Terrace is a rescue mission for these current 50 low-income elderly and disabled households, and future households who will call Leefort Terrace home. Given that these 50 1-bedroom units are all on the ground floor in garden style buildings in a coastal floodplain, the State and Federal regulations will not allow for renovation in their current configuration. In order for these public housing to remain in perpetuity, it must be rebuilt in a configuration that removes the apartments from the flood plain, such as building the units on a podium.If nothing is done to rebuild these units, they will continue to be exposed to flooding, which will worsen due to more frequent and stronger storm surges already happening. Expected sea level rise will put these garden style units at further risk of being under water resulting in mold growth and ultimately the displacement of the 50 low-income elderly and disabled households who live at Leefort Terrace.
Most development sites have both positive and challenging aspects. It’s not uncommon for there to be questions from neighbors who are uncomfortable with what this change will mean for the aesthetic and feel of their community. We have heard these questions already about this site and have been working to create a site plan and approach that takes as many concerns as possible. The 50 units at Leefort Terrace need to be replaced. Due to public housing operating economics and economies of scale, the state public housing cannot be operated in a financially sustainable manner without being part of a larger development that includes other affordable and/or market rate apartments.The Leefort Terrace land is already owned by the Salem Housing Authority and legally dedicated to affordability to lower income households. Land costs are too high for the purchase of another site location to be feasible. Any other site would also likely bring up similar questions of “Why here?”.Our concepts and goals for how to design seek to mitigate the impacts while providing much needed housing in an area close to amenities and transportation and greatly enhancing underutilized, vacant parcels into a beautiful public park. We realize that there are many competing perspectives and goals. Any development likely won’t make everyone completely happy, but we hope as the process continues and plans are presented and revised, results can be achieved that replace the existing public housing in a manner that is economically and environmentally sustainable, and harmonizes with broader goals and assets of the residents of Salem.
Like much of Salem, Leefort Terrace site is in a coastal floodplain where managing flooding and sea level rise is the concern; it is not a tidal floodplain where restoring wetland and creating infiltration into the soil would improve the problem. The Leefort Terrace redevelopment must be built in a manner such that any residential living unit must be built above the floodplain using conservative predictions of sea level rise. However, the low impact, green design of our landscaping approach in the Leefort site and the public park we will construct, including bioswales, rain gardens and improved soil retention will help during storms to hold water on the site for longer, rather than going right back into the soil and infiltrating down into the cove and raising flood levels even higher during the storm.
Current Leefort residents will be temporarily relocated off site during construction, and all residents in good standing will have the right to return to the newly redeveloped Leefort Terrace. Upon return to the new building, Leefort Terrace residents will continue to pay 30% of their income towards rent including utilities, as they do today. Beacon and SHA will be responsible to cover all costs associated with relocation. A housing relocation consultant, Housing Opportunities Unlimited, that will work individually with each resident throughout the entire relocation process to help them find the best fit for their temporary relocation needs.
Beacon will hire a full time Resident Services Coordinator (RSC) during the relocation period who will work to keep Leefort Terrace residents connected and engaged, and to connect them with services in the community that they may benefit from. The RSC will get to know residents and create a customized plan to meet their needs. Expected resident engagement activities during the temporary relocation period will include:
- Connecting Residents to services eligible benefits and local resources
- Fostering Partnerships and Programming Collaborations with local service providers
- Hosting Community Building Events and Gatherings
Once residents are relocated back to Leefort Terrace, the full time Resident Services Coordinator will expand on the engagement activities above. Depending on the needs of the residents they will also offer additional services such a computer learning and usage of technology, on-site wellness, enrichment classes, employment workforce development and support and academic enrichment and support for youth, young adults and seniors.
Beacon Communities initially proposed a mix of public housing (replacing all 50 existing), affordable, and market rate apartments. Based on resident and community feedback, we have changed to an all affordable approach—a mix of public housing and affordable housing for very low income and working households.The redeveloped Leefort Terrace will be 100% affordable rental housing with all 124 units deed-restricted restricted for 99 years. The incomes of households living at the new development will be restricted to at least 25 households making very low incomes of 30% of Area Median Income (AMI) or less and no more than 99 households making low incomes of 60% of AMI of AMI or less. 50 replacement units will be further restricted as public housing units for 99 yearsAll 124 units will have a Project-Based subsidy, which restricts eligibility to households with incomes at or below 50% of Area Median Income and limits tenant rent and utility payments to 30% of income, for the maximum initial contract term of 20 years (renewable) and effectively deepens affordability on these units to any households with income under 50% AMI.
Being environmentally positive is a HUGE goal of the redevelopment. Early on in the process the team establish sustainability goals that will guide future planning, while simultaneously keeping in mind the financial constraints of the project. Those goals are:Resiliency: The site will be designed to address current and future flood risk. The building will strive to be a resiliency hub and will seek additional funding to provide reliable backup power in the case of a power outage.Environmentally Positive: The building and site will be designed with as many carbon sequestering, and regenerative materials as possible, with the aim to minimize embodied carbon (carbon emissions today during the harvesting, manufacturing and construction process). Demolished building materials will be reused where feasible. New building materials will be specified that reduce life cycle greenhouse gas emission. The landscaping will be designed using approaches that allow for carbon sequestration in the plants and soil.
Beacon Communities initially proposed a mix of public housing (replacing all 50 existing), affordable, and market rate apartments. Based on community feedback, we have changed to an all affordable approach—a mix of public housing and affordable housing for working households. The redeveloped Leefort Terrace will be 100% affordable rental housing restricted to households with very low-, low- and moderate-incomes. The incomes of households living at the new development will be restricted to residents making very low incomes of 30% of Area Median Income (AMI), low incomes of 50% of AMI and moderate incomes of 60% of AMI.
We anticipate that the new Leefort Terrace will consist of intergenerational housing, including at least 50 1-bedroom units reserved for Elderly Families. We expect the balance of the Leefort Terrace community to be filled with lower and moderate income households of all ages.
The Salem Housing Authority issued a Request for Proposals in Winter 2020 to select a development partner to assist SHA in exploring the redevelopment of Leefort Terrace. Through this process, SHA selected Beacon Communities as its partner. Based in Boston, Beacon Communities LLC is a national leader in developing and managing best-in-class affordable housing, mixed-income housing, and public-private partnerships. You can learn more about Beacon here. Together SHA and Beacon are overseeing the redevelopment of Leefort Terrace. Beacon Communities will ultimately own and manage the property; SHA will own the land and oversee and administer the Project Based Section 8 contract and related waitlist that will be in place on 108 of the 124 units.
The redeveloped Leefort Terrace will include 65 affordable senior family units and 59 open occupancy affordable units. On-site parking will be provided for approximately 100 vehicles (parking ratio of 0.81 parking spaces per unit), including 86 covered spaces at the garage under the building and 14 surface spaces. In order to establish base traffic-volume conditions within the study area, Vanasse & Associates Inc. conducted a Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) in February 2022.The TIA concluded that the demographics of the new building has a parking demand for 88 parking spaces, which is below the proposed supply of 100 parking spaces. Currently only 50% of Leefort Terrace residents own cars, and in other Beacon affordable housing developments in the North Shore, car ownership rates are less than one car per household.
Vanasse & Associates Inc's Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) in February 2022 estimated that given the low car ownership expected at Leffort Terrace, the redevelopment will generate 28 vehicle trips in morning and 39 in afternoon, which is less than a car a minute. These projections do not include removal of existing trips. All traffic will come in and out of Fort Ave and will no longer connect to Webb Street. Fort Ave currently has significantly less with volumes of 222 cars in the morning and 217 in the evening compared with Webb Street, which has 603 in the morning and 545 in the evening.
The Traffic Assessment included an analysis of the impact of the two specific developments by others in proximity to the property-the proposed power plant and offshore wind marshalling yard facility at the Salem Harbor Footprint property and the Pioneer Village/Camp Naumkeag Relocation. When each project seeks their permits, it is expected that they will need to coordinate their construction management plan with that of Leefort, should any of the construction period overlap. However, given the times of day each will be in construction and operation, no adverse impact is expected on the roadways as a result.
As this is a public project, construction wages will be set at State prevailing wages levels. Prevailing wages are set by the Department of Labor based on region. Those rates are typically higher than general construction wage rates and provide a living wage for the people who will be building the new Leefort Terrace development.