Over the last several years, the community has thoughtfully authored a plan to maximize for residents the value of the former Town Yard. It’s time to approve this plan now that we’ve opened a modern municipal services facility, and now that five years have passed since approval of the Historic Mill District zoning.
Andover is at increasing risk of not being able to sustain its long-term budget model. With a commitment to increase pension funding by about $1 million per year, which will account for 7% of the town budget in 2024 and a larger portion of the budget in the future, Andover desperately needs new revenue beyond what we can count on from increases allowed under the current levy limit.
Additionally, the I-495 beltway continues to lose tenants to Boston and suburbs inside I-95. Andover risks losing employers who need to be close to millennial and GenZ populations. These changes could ultimately devalue commercial properties in Andover.
The Historic Mill District presents an opportunity to counter these risks. By redeveloping the former Town Yard, we can offer housing for younger workers who commute to Boston via train or reverse commute from Boston to businesses in Andover. We can also transform a three-acre site from a revenue drain into a site that produces nearly $1 million in annual revenue. Ultimately, we can make our town center more dynamic with new housing, retail, community space and restaurants. This will raise property values and make Andover a more attractive place to live and do business.
We can’t get this process moving without sale of the Town Yard, which needs to be approved by a 2/3 vote at Town Meeting. By selling the Town Yard, we make possible MBTA action regarding increased parking, connectivity around the railroad station, and an improved train station. But first, we need to act.
Towns must innovate or slowly fade away, and recent support for the Town Yard redevelopment, new Ballardvale Fire Station, and Senior Center modernization indicate real progress in Andover to make this a vibrant place for all generations to live.