Article courtesy of The Falmouth Enterprise
Volume 122 Number 42 Friday, September 7, 2012

Falmouth Town Planner Brian A. Currie announced yesterday that the town will award two affordable housing projects, conversion of the Odd Fellows Hall into apartments and housing at St. Marks Road, to the Falmouth Housing Trust. Odd Fellows Hall, the historic property in Town Hall Square, will be restored and renovated into four affordable rental units. The St. Marks project on Teaticket Highway is a vacant lot and will be developed into three new single-family homes for sale to qualified buyers. “I think it may have been a long time in coming, but it was worth taking the time to do it right,” Mr. Currie said. The paperwork was still being finalized as of yesterday afternoon, but was expected to be complete by this morning or Monday at the latest. “When it rains it pours,” said Falmouth Housing Trust executive director Anne C. Saganic, who plans to develop both properties as Chapter 40B affordable housing projects. “We’re very excited. It’s been a long haul.” It has been over a year since Falmouth Town Meeting approved the conversion of the Odd Fellows into affordable rentals. The housing trust plans to build four one-bedroom apartments at Odd Fellows Hall that would be rented for about $850 a month, including utilities. Eligible tenants must earn 80 percent of the average median income or below, Ms. Saganic said. Two units would be on the first floor and two on the second. Of the two projects, the Odd Fellows Hall project is more complicated, Mr. Currie said. “You’re dealing with a building that is 150 years old that is going to require extensive renovations,” he said. “It’s really something that’s not their forte, quite frankly.” From a planning perspective, Mr. Currie said, it might have been better to put a commercial property on the first floor and rental apartments on the second floor. “But Town Meeting wanted to have purely affordable housing, and that’s fine,” Mr. Currie said. “From a planning perspective, it’s fine.” Ms. Saganic said because Odd Fellows Hall is a more complicated project, that will be the priority. The building was built in 1856 and first served as the Village School. Among the students who attended the school was Katharine Lee Bates, author of “America the Beautiful.” Over time, the building underwent significant changes. In 1906, it was moved to its current location on Chancery Lane, turned 90 degrees, and its steeple was removed. At the time a portico and four pillars were added. The town purchased the property in 2004 for $330,000. Since that time the property has remained vacant and unused. In 2011, Town Meeting voted to sell the property for a minimum of $10 with the requirement it be redeveloped for community housing. The St. Marks Road parcel at 761 Teaticket Highway was taken by the town in 1981 because the previous owner failed to pay taxes. Falmouth Town Meeting approved the development of affordable housing in April 2010. The land will be developed into three single-family homes: two Cape-style homes and one ranch, Ms. Saganic said. Falmouth Housing Trust specializes in building single-family homes and selling them as affordable housing to qualified buyers.