Could Bank Operations Center Become Affordable Apartments?

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Housing and homelessness

The Cape Cod 5 Operations Center in Orleans. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

ORLEANS When they meet Aug. 1 , the selectmen will be looking at proposed building and site evaluation contracts to help determine whether the Cape Cod Five Operations Center at 19 West Rd. can be reused as affordable apartments.

Faced with a lack of options for housing, town meeting voted in May to create a new affordable housing trust and fund it with hundreds of thousands of dollars, some from Community Preservation funds. That sense of urgency prompted increasing interest in the future of the bank's building in Orleans as the company builds its new operations center in Barnstable.

The selectmen are “proposing to take a look at the CC5 Operations Building to see if its structure can be converted to another use,” board Chairman Alan McClennen wrote in an e-mail response. “Any change in use will require an evaluation to see if a new use is possible and what the code requirements might be. The initial talk has been some kind of housing although I have heard community center as well. Studies by the planning department and the Cape Cod Commission have shown that Orleans needs an expansion in our rental housing stock.”

CBI Consulting, LLC, of Boston would charge $19,400 to opine on “the condition of the building envelope, the building layout, roof structure and roof top equipment, the viability to residential unit build out from a structural standpoint, zoning issues associated with the project, and building code concerns for the conversion so that the Town of Orleans may understand the efforts involved in converting the existing structure to one bedroom affordable apartments.”

Also before the selectmen will be a proposal from Bennett Environmental Associates, Inc., of Brewster to “perform a Phase I – Environmental Site Assessment... to identify any Recognized Environmental Condition(s)...” The company's fee for the services would be $2,850.

To this point, McClennen wrote, “The discussions with the CC5 have been very preliminary and have focused on getting permission to 'take a look.'” He added that no estimates of renovation cost or purchase price have been made as “both are a function of what we learn from the proposed study.”

“All of this is very preliminary,” CC5 First Executive Vice President Bert Talerman said in an interview Monday, adding that the bank would not object to the town taking a look at the building. “We need to take a prudent approach to the disposition of the property. If we're able to dispose of this property in a way that it serves a public purpose, that's certainly a positive.”

Talerman noted that the bank will keep a significant presence in Orleans after the new operations center opens in Barnstable in the latter half of 2019. “We have a building that's just over 10 years old across the street from the operations center that we will continue to maintain and have a big commitment there,” he said, “and we have a large branch (bank) in Orleans that's a very important part of our business.”

Asked whether the bank might participate in a conversion project, McClennen, noting that his remarks were speculative, wrote that “CC5 could lend us the funds needed for the construction phase of the project, and, depending on what type of housing is built, they could provide long term financing. Remember, CC5 is a mutual bank that prides itself in returning its funds back into the community. As a former chairman of a mutual bank in Massachusetts I remember how we dealt with developments like this. It can be a 'win-win.'”

“I would say that Alan's comments are very kind,” Talerman said after they were read to him. “The availability of diverse housing options in our community has been very well documented as something that's going to be important for the long-term vitality of our community, and clearly it has been documented that workforce housing and entry-level housing are in short supply in our community.”