Affordable Apartments Planned For Odd Fellows Hall In Falmouth

Members of the Falmouth Housing Trust presented their plans to the zoning board last week in hopes of beginning renovations in the fall to the historic Odd Fellows Hall. The building, which dates back to the 1850s, would have four affordable apartments. The board will make its decision next week. The exterior of the renovated building would closely resemble its current facade.SAM HOUGHTON/ENTERPRISE - Members of the Falmouth Housing Trust presented their plans to the zoning board last week in hopes of beginning renovations in the fall to the historic Odd Fellows Hall. The building, which dates back to the 1850s, would have four affordable apartments. The board will make its decision next week. The exterior of the renovated building would closely resemble its current facade.

The Falmouth Housing Trust hopes to begin renovations on the Odd Fellows Hall in the fall, a project that would turn the historic building into four affordable apartments for young professionals in downtown.

Odd Fellows Hall is near Town Hall Square on 1 Chancery Lane.

Anne C. Saganic, executive director of the Falmouth Housing Trust, presented the project to the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals last Thursday, June 5, and while there were concerns about parking, the board seemed poised to approve the plans. It could reach a decision at its next meeting scheduled for June 19.

“This is a no-brainer,” said board member Kenneth H. Foreman. He said that this is a project that needs to happen.

“We really need housing for young people in Falmouth,” said Joan S. Bates, a member of the Falmouth Housing Trust board. “There is virtually nothing available now for young professionals.” She urged the board to approve the plan.

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The design for the four studio apartments is based on an open-room concept, referred to as “micro-units” by Ms. Saganic. Because of the small size of the building, the rooms would be approximately 550 square feet with no doors between the kitchen, living area and bedroom. The design is based on urban-style housing, she said, an attempt to attract young professionals and maximize the small space.

As proposed, the exterior would remain much the same as it is now. Siding would be redone and energy-efficient windows installed. The four, colonial-style pillars would remain. Falmouth Energy Company offered a full array of photovoltaic panels to be installed on the southern exposed roof.

The four units would be leased annually to anyone earning 80 percent of the Area Median Income. For a single person that would be $44,750 and for a couple would be $51,000. The apartments would be rented at $850 per month with utilities included.

The Odd Fellows Hall is a two-story, wood-frame building constructed in 1856 when it was used as a grammar school, Ms. Saganic said. It was moved one block southeast to its current location and then rotated 90 degrees in 1906 where it was used as a meeting place for civic organizations and as a performance space.

The town purchased the property in 2004 and spring Town Meeting members voted in 2011 to turn the property into community housing. The town awarded the Falmouth Housing Trust a request for proposals in September of 2012.

Ralph E. Herbst of the Community Preservation Committee and the Falmouth Planning Board said that he formed a group in 2010 to look at what to do with the building. The town purchased Odd Fellows Hall to save the historical building from destruction, he said. “I urge you to approve to develop the property. It has taken too long for this already.”

A CPC needs study shows a serious need for affordable housing, Mr. Herbst said. The restoration would provide affordable housing, provide income to the town, and preserve a historic property, he said.

Zoning board member Matthew J. McNamara asked if the four parking spots the trust hopes to install might be excluded. He asked if they could work with the town to provide parking for the tenants in Town Hall Square. A grass area would be removed to make way for the four parking spots. He said that perhaps grass-pavers might be installed instead of pavement.

Ms. Saganic estimated the project to cost $850,000, part of which would come from fundraising and free cash from the Housing Trust. They plan to apply to the Affordable Housing Fund for funds.

The town of Falmouth would list the four rental units in the Subsidized Housing Inventory.

In the end, the zoning board voted to close the hearing to public testimony. 

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  • joanbates

    We at the Falmouth Housing Trust are so excited by the excellent reception this project has had from the Town of Falmouth as well as private citizens! Getting it to this point has been a long process (since 2010 or earlier) and now we are actually beginning to see that it may be coming to reality! Look for ongoing reports as the work begins at the site. We hope to be ready to rent to qualified applicants in 2015, which, in the world of renovating antique properties, is not that far away.