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Sea Captain’s Row Project Could Mean Urban Renewal for Downtown Hyannis

Filed in Housing, NEWS HEADLINES by on November 14, 2017 0 Comments • views: 836

Imagine a busy, bustling Main Street Hyannis full of upwardly mobile young professionals, successful businesspeople, and urban-minded residents living, working and playing in the area. Restaurants, retail, and culture are steps away on Main Street, and residents enjoy walking from their Pleasant Street homes to enjoy all that Hyannis has to offer.

Now, imagine a townhouse-style neighborhood complex, designed to provide market rate rental housing for upwardly mobile young working professionals.  That’s the idea behind Sea Captain’s Row, a plan from Rob Brennan of CapeBuilt Development. He’s hoping to create a new neighborhood that has the potential to revitalize a dwindling downtown.

Cape Cod needs market-rate rental housing 

Data from a recent Cape Cod Commission study outlines the need for housing that’s affordable on Cape Cod. Here, the median household income is just over $63,000, but the median home price is $370,000. The study indicates a shortage of 26,000 homes that would be affordable to residents making 80 percent of the median household income. That gap is expected to rise within the next decade, and doesn’t account for the region’s rental shortage.

The so-called “missing middle” is made up of those who earn too much to qualify for traditional Affordable Housing, yet not enough to save for a down payment to purchase a home. This is the target market for Sea Captain’s Row.

“I’m looking to meet an identified and under-met need for housing, not only in Hyannis or Barnstable, but Cape-wide,” says Brennan.  “By serving that unmet middle we will be providing a new housing option and a new community option for folks that are at area median income, and secondly, creating an incentive for some folks to move up and out of current, less expensive housing, freeing that up for others.”

A preservation tug-of-war

Once the homes of sea captains working out of nearby Hyannis Harbor, the structures along Pleasant Street have fallen into disrepair. While the area is part of the federally designated Pleasant Street Historic District, the homes themselves are not listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2016, nonprofit organization Preservation Massachusetts added the homes to their list of most endangered historic resources. Despite this, citizen efforts to raise capital to restore the buildings have not been successful.

The buildings also appear on another list – one kept by the Hyannis Fire Department of abandoned and dangerous buildings. “The buildings are in a degraded state of condition,” says Deputy Chief Dean Melanson. “We are concerned about the high risk for fire or injury in the buildings.”

“Historic significance has been the lead issue,” says Brennan, who purchased the properties from the McEvoy family in 2016. “The history and historic significance has been a lead issue, unfortunately most of the buildings are in such a state of disrepair or decay that they can’t be salvaged for reuse as housing.”

Historic preservation will have a part in the project, in the form of the Patriot Press building. The plan is to restore and renovate that historic structure into an open community neighborhood space and apartments designed for artists-in-residence, who could use the history of Sea Captain’s Row as inspiration for creative projects chronicling the area’s rich maritime history.

A project for our community

For the past several months, Brennan and his team from Union Studio Architects have been working with members of the community to gather insight and feedback on the design plans. The Town of Barnstable, The Cape Cod Young Professionals, Greater Hyannis Civic Association, and the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District have been a part of an extensive listening tour. Ideas and suggestions from the community helped to shape the project’s design.

The result is a new neighborhood design, made up of townhouse-style buildings with one, two and three bedroom apartments, that will be available at market rate rental prices.

Brennan says he’s proud of the job the architects did in the evolution of the designs. Initial drawings were presented during the listening tour. Using feedback from those meetings, architects found a way to take details, lines, and proportions from the current structures and reflect and replicate those same lines, proportions and materials into the project design.

While most of the existing buildings are beyond salvaging, they found they could replicate and re-create the architectural distinctions that are in place today.

One could argue that while the structures themselves aren’t slated for salvation, the project is a community preservation project of sorts – one that preserves the ability for young people to live, work, and thrive on Cape Cod.

A Renaissance for Main Street Hyannis

“I think it’s an exemplary showcase of what needs to happen to revitalize Hyannis,” says Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District Executive Director Elizabeth Wurfbain.

“[Sea Captain’s Row is] a residential development that will attract young people to live and work downtown, a best practice in place all around the world. This is the tipping point of in what we really want to see. A downtown Hyannis populated with a diverse population, jobs, residents, culture, interesting attractions, events, all together. This is the moment that we have been waiting for.”

“It is a challenge to both retain and attract young professionals to Cape Cod when you are competing with the likes of Boston and Providence,” says Brennan, “where any number of neighborhoods that have that kind of identity and heartbeat and sense of place. The nature of the history of real estate development on Cape Cod has not been focused on creating that kind of environment.”

Town Approval Pending

Sea Captain’s Row has received support from the Town of Barntable’s Site Plan Review and Planning Board. On November 2, the team presented plans before Barnstable Town Council, the final approval needed before the project can move forward. Council is expected to take a vote on the project during its meeting on Thursday, November 16.


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