White Cliffs developer presents plans to selectmen


White Cliffs developer presents plans to selectmen
Statues line the driveway to the White Cliffs mansion in Northborough. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

NORTHBOROUGH – The proposed developers of an intergenerational housing project on the White Cliffs property brought their plans before the Board of Selectmen on March 13.

The selectmen did not vote on the proposal from Metro West Collaborative Development, which was recommended by the White Cliffs Committee 4-1.

However, some residents voiced their concerns about the project.

Resident Anna Servideo submitted a petition that was signed by nearly 250 residents. She said the residents “felt strongly” that Metro West’s proposal wasn’t in the best interest of the town.

“Its potential impact would be devastating to this area for many reasons,” Servideo said.

She said the White Cliffs Committee didn’t ask questions or have reports about traffic impact, or the impact on police, fire, schools and the intersections that may need to be re-engineered.

“Why is this being considered as the most viable option? Mansion restoration was not discussed,” she said. “How does the project preserve the land and building or really benefit Northborough?”

Others voiced their support.

“I want people to recognize that, if we don’t do this program, we don’t have White Cliffs. In five years from now, that building will be in dire shape,” said former White Cliffs Committee member Norm Corbin.


In regards to the timeline of work related to White Cliffs, Town Administrator John Coderre noted that there were bulldozers in the parking lot of White Cliffs, and crews were ripping things out of the building and preparing for it to be torn down.

“We purchased it, as I said at that time, to try to save a very critical piece of the fabric of our community,” Coderre said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

He said the town did not have a plan for the property when it was purchased.

The Metro West Collaborative Development proposal was one of three responses to the request for proposals (RFP).

White Cliffs Committee Chair Todd Helwig noted that one of the proposals didn’t meet the RFP requirements, and while the third proposal was creative, Helwig said the developer didn’t have the background or technical expertise to “address the problem in a meaningful fashion.”

“[Metro West] had a team of professionals that had experience in historic preservation and architecture and property management,” Helwig said.

What is proposed

Metro West Collaborative Development is proposing 52 units of intergenerational affordable housing, including in the mansion and a three-story addition.

Metro West Executive Director Caitlin Madden said Metro West’s buildings are designed to fit in the context of the neighborhood.

Metro West, Madden said, views affordable housing as a driver for local revenue, economic development, ways for people who work in town to live there as well and a way to attract additional state and federal resources.

According to Madden, Metro West develops deed-restricted affordable housing for a set period of time. All of their projects to-date have been restricted in perpetuity.

Among the benefits of affordable housing, Madden said these properties pay property tax and water and sewer usage.

Following questions from residents regarding impact on traffic and town services, Madden said all the selectmen would say “yes” to is to enter into an agreement that would allow Metro West to move into due diligence and community engagement. The agreement would be contingent on Metro West receiving zoning approvals.

She said they have to have site control to get pre-development funding for the due diligence work.

“We are not a hostile developer,” Madden said. “I am being really honest about our model and how our process works, but I didn’t want there to be a misunderstanding of how we are able to proceed prior to a vote from the Select Board.”