A Home for Everyone
Cotuit Meadows is built on both thoughtful design and community
Photos courtesy of Bayside Building
Affordable housing, despite the sensible and straightforward nature of the term, doesn’t always benefit from a lot of positive connotation. Real estate development that falls under the Massachusetts 40B Housing program allows developers to override local zoning bylaws as long as 25 percent of the planned development is available to low-income buyers. Often these mixed income communities have a history of questionable success and marred desirability within the conventional real estate market. In the case of Cotuit Meadows, a 40B project created by Centerville’s Bayside Building, that could not be farther from the truth. Recipient of a 2018 Gold BRICC Award in the category of Affordability Project, Bayside successfully demonstrated that with a lot of thought, planning, collaboration and cooperation, a community could be built. A community in the truest sense of the word—the kind of neighborhood that harkens back to a simpler time, one where on the Fourth of July kids patriotically ride their bikes on the sidewalks to cul-de-sacs dotted with homes that they trick-or-treat each fall. The kind of community where retirees, longing to see their grandchildren grow through the ages, take on a surrogate nature as the neighboring children grow from toddlers to young adults finishing their high school years.
Cotuit Meadows is nestled into a wooded enclave off of Route 28 just east of Mashpee Commons. Despite the bustling traffic encountered on the busy artery that runs the length of the upper arm of the Cape, the subdivision immediately renders a bucolic feeling of peace within its natural surroundings. The park-like setting includes 124 units on a 50-acre parcel and a special spot designated as “Duffa Field,” named in memory of a longtime Bayside employee, Michael Duffley, who passed away several years ago. A sense of order and continuity is prevalent throughout the several streets that wind through the tidy and quaint residences. Bayside’s project manager, Nick Bowes, explains that the inclusion of certain covenants and restrictions within the Homeowners Association, like no mailboxes and requirements for individuals to maintain their lawns and landscaping, has the desired effect to create an aesthetically cohesive neighborhood. “It was important for us to not have it immediately obvious which of the units were affordable,” Bowes explains.
The attention to the smallest details is one of the elements at the heart of the success of this project. Each home, while not being exactly the same style as their neighbors, benefits from a traditional New England vernacular. Interiors boast details like shiplap and board and batten paneling in the conventional market homes, and for the affordable homes Bayside worked closely with each homeowner, referred through the Housing Assistance Corporation, to individually choose the finishes of their home. The high quality of construction Bayside has built a reputation upon is evident at every turn. That expertise is not just found in the surface details, as each home has been built to exceed current energy standards. Those amenities include spray-in insulation, on-demand hot water systems and LED lighting—all building practices usually reserved for high-end residential construction. Perhaps most importantly to both the homeowners and the surrounding community is the on-site, zero-nitrate sewerage treatment plant that is gravity fed from each residence. As a result of this thoughtful inclusion in the plan, Cotuit Meadows has a net zero impact on the Cape’s groundwater and natural resources and is the preeminent example of what developers can create when they work hand in hand with local authorities and citizens alike.
Given the current housing challenges on the Cape, the question of how to provide affordable solutions is one that begs resolution sooner rather than later. Brian Dacey, founder and owner of Bayside, doesn’t consider himself to have been a visionary as he embarked on this project in 2008—at the height of the recession—but he does acknowledge the need for more thoughtful planning, especially in a precious and fragile environment like the Cape. “I would like to see more developers create more solution-based projects that serve a variety of needs—human, environmental and social,” Dacey says. “But it requires everyone to have a stake in the process. The towns and the state not only don’t make it easy, but sometimes they make it very difficult.” According to Dacey, if he hadn’t been in a position to finance the project himself, the amount of time it took to take these units to market would have proven to be impossible for most developers.
“When people hear the term 40B, they assume the developer is taking a success to the bank. In fact single lots with the price of land versus a high-density project will always be more profitable, but for me it was worth it because affordable living on Cape Cod is a need that has to be filled.” All in all, the vision that spawned the community now known as Cotuit Meadows was not only award winning, but also some might consider it revolutionary. Novelist J.G. Ballard wrote, “A small revolution was taking place, so modest and well-behaved, almost no one noticed.” If that were the way the building future on Cape Cod progressed—implementing revolutionary ideas to provide for all, and protect the vulnerable landscape, without anyone noticing—wouldn’t that be a wonderful place to call home?
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