There's a Big Wish List for Community Preservation Funds

By: Ed Maroney

A fund-raising campaign is under way to preserve, renovate and expand the historic Academy Playhouse building, and organizers are looking to tap community preservation dollars for some of the work. ED MARONEY PHOTO

ORLEANS Local organizations are seeking a combined total of more than $1 million in Community Preservation funds for historic preservation, community housing and recreation initiatives. Over the next months, the community preservation committee will interview applicants and make recommendations. Town meeting will have the final say in May.

Topping the wish list is a $500,000 request from the Academy of Performing Arts for the renovation and expansion of its hilltop Academy Playhouse, to be combined with funds raised through donations and other grants for the $4 million project. Built in the 1870s to serve as the town hall, the building became the home of the Orleans Arena Theater in 1948 and the Academy of Performing Arts in 1975.

CPC funds would be used to restore the exterior and interior, put in a new foundation, and build an elevator tower and handicapped-accessible bathrooms. That work is part of a larger project that includes constructing two stories of backstage, rehearsal and storage space at the rear of the building.

The Academy says a building analysis performed in 2014 found that the Playhouse's “strong 1873 post and beam construction is solid but requires extensive interior and exterior repair. With proper renovation, the building will be capable of sustaining active use for many years to come.”

The next big ask is $200,000 to support a community rental housing development of 65 units to be built on Route 6A in Eastham. Fifteen units would be for moderate-income families earning 120 percent of the area median income, and 50 for households with incomes up to 60 percent of area median income. The narrative by developer Penrose, LLC notes “trends show that some Orleans families are now seeking homes in other areas on the Cape and some have been forced to leave the Cape altogether. While the project is located in Eastham, there are no geographic restrictions placed on the moderate-income units (which) could potentially house members of Orleans' workforce.”

Penrose is requesting funds under the community housing and recreation categories of the Community Preservation Act, with the latter directed toward a new community pocket park. According to Jacqueline Beebe, Eastham's town administrator, the host community will be providing $400,000 toward infrastructure costs and may contribute another $300,000 from CPA funds.

Without a significant affordable community housing development in the immediate future for Orleans, the town's affordable housing committee wants $150,000 in CPA money set aside as support for future initiatives. That would keep the town on track toward achieving its goal of having 10 percent of its housing stock identified as affordable by 2020.

The board of selectmen and town administrator are asking for $75,000 to pay design costs for final plans to preserve and rehabilitate the Old Firehouse on Main Street, now used as a community center and the headquarters of the chamber of commerce.

Its recent receipt of a town-wide housing needs study prompted the affordable housing committee to request $25,000 for a professional housing consultant as needed to help with pre-acquisition costs for properties considered for community housing developments. Alternatively, the money could provide partial support for a full-time consultant paid also by Brewster, Chatham, and Harwich.

In its application, the committee noted that it “has worked to the best of its ability to increase affordable housing opportunities. However, planning department staff can only support limited efforts and the committee is composed of resident volunteers. If we want to address housing needs in a timely manner, additional resources are needed.”

Orleans is among the Lower Cape towns being asked to support the second year of the Community Development Partnership's Cape Housing Institute. CDP, which is requesting $15,000 from Orleans, says it “is the only organization offering affordable housing training and resources to Lower Cape towns through a regional approach and with a local, Cape Cod focus.” Nine municipal officials and town staff from Orleans participated in the first year of the Institute, which is designed “to demystify the process and support towns in creating and implementing a comprehensive housing supply strategy to meet current housing needs and plan for future growth.”

Northwest Schoolhouse, Inc. is requesting $12,000 in historic preservation funds to allow planning for installation of a commercial kitchen that would be used by a jobs training program. In writing to the committee, Paul Davies noted that “we are not asking for a kitchen per se, as that has been previously requested and rejected,” but for planning money that would include placement of a hood vent for the kitchen.

Also returning to the CPC is the Homeless Prevention Council, which town meeting granted $110,000 to convert space at its Old Tote Road office into an affordable one-bedroom apartment. HPC Executive Director Hadley Luddy wrote that “it became apparent that the project was more complicated than a simple conversion of the existing space.” Structural deficiencies revealed when walls and ceilings were removed, as well as requirements for sprinkler and alarm systems and for a third party to market the unit, have created “significant unanticipated costs.” HPC's application estimates those expenses to be between $10,000 and $20,000 and promises a more exact number by the first of the year.

The town's cemeteries have prompted two applications. The Orleans Historical Commission wants $9,800 to be paid to a cemetery preservation/restoration consultant who would evaluate existing conditions and provide cost estimates for restoration, review and validation of various volunteer cemetery inventories and advise on long-term preservation strategies. The ask from the Orleans Cemetery Association is for $1,126.26 to repair the door to the cemetery vault, where “corpses would reside...until the spring thaw permitted an appropriate burial.”

The Orleans Conservation Trust wants to install six prefabricated information kiosks at some of its walking trails at a cost of $9,900, and Snow Library wants to maintain and preserve its online record of The Cape Codder newspaper for $8,000. “It should be noted,” the library's application reads, “that the downsizing of local staff and resources at Cape newspapers under corporate ownership has made it increasingly difficult for the papers to preserve their own print archives. Nothing is more basic to a community's collective sense of history and spirit than a local newspaper and the historical and social record it provides.”