Beacon Communities – Leefort Terrace, Salem, MA
As a resident of Salem and a neighbor of the Leefort Terrace public housing project for the last 16 years, Amy VanDoren has been waiting a long time for change to come.
That’s why VanDoren has been vocal in her support for the Salem Housing Authority’s (SHA) project with Beacon Communities to reimagine the site, which has fallen into disrepair and is in need of redevelopment, creating 124 eco-friendly, affordable apartments, including replacement units for the 50 elderly and disabled households currently living at Leefort Terrace. “The real issue is that the elderly housing there now is not a viable option for them or for anyone, and there is no available option to fix it,” she says.
When project planners initially reached out to the community, residents shared a number of concerns, including the need for greater affordability and questions about density, alternate sites, transportation, and environmental issues. As a result, SHA and Beacon have sought to deepen engagement with Salem residents and take a collaborative approach to the project planning and implementation though one-on-one and small group meetings, larger community meetings and gathering feedback via the coUrbanize platform.
For VanDoren, that means addressing shared concerns about the size and height of the building, and how it will be integrated into the surrounding community. The existing building is at ground level, and she and others have expressed that the multi-level structure in the current plans will need to be thoughtfully planned to continue to encourage neighborhood engagement for its residents. However, she also sees the development as an opportunity to tie the neighborhood together with surrounding communities for the first time.
“This area is very disjointed,” she says. “There are people who enjoy its beauty and being outdoors here, and there are also the people that live and work here. But there isn’t anything that joins us all together…The more physically joined together this project feels, the better it will create that sense of community and bring in everyone from the edges.”
The Salem Housing Authority has selected Beacon Communities as its development partner to replace the obsolete Leefort Terrace apartments with a newly imagined affordable, regenerative and climate resilient Leefort created in harmony with natural and social systems. Read more about the project here.