WINCHESTER - Last month, the Select Board approved the Request for Proposals for the Waterfield Lot (adjacent to the Winchester Center Commuter Rail Station). This month, they officially released it to the public so that developers could submit bids. The process remains open until Aug. 31.

Developing the Waterfield Lot and the upcoming construction at the commuter rail station by the MBTA (scheduled to begin later this year or early next) may overlap, and both projects possibly could have begun sooner except the coronavirus pandemic put a wrench into a lot of plans, but the town doesn’t necessarily have the time to wait on either (and the MBTA has already pushed back the commuter rail station construction long enough).

The town’s goal through the RFP involves adding more affordable housing to Winchester. Its current affordable housing stock remains low, below the state mandated 10 percent. However, thanks to the creation of the Housing Production Plan and 79 affordable units, the town finds itself safe from any unwanted 40B housing projects for the next two years (until March 18, 2022).

Even with that, the town can’t stop creating more affordable units. Therefore, it will use the Waterfield Lot due to its proximity to public transportation and location in the town center. The town already had nine developers respond to its Request for Qualifications, so the interest seems high. Those nine include CIVICO, Diamond Sinacori and Urban Spaces, Just-A-Start, MANZO, Mary McKenna & Associates, MPZ Development and Capstone Communities Development, NOAH, Pennrose, and WinnDevelopment. Only Mary McKenna & Associates failed to move on to the RFP process.

This means the town should have a wide array of proposals to choose from once all come in. And, unlike in previous years, it will be the Select Board themselves and not a subcommittee evaluating each one.

The board decided not to convene a group to narrow down the proposals; instead, it appears they will look at each one, pick their top few, and bring those to the public for comment and review. The eventual winner will then go to Town Meeting in the fall in hopes of getting approval.

Francis Goyes from MassHousing, who helped create the RFP, Jennifer Goldson of JM Goldson, who also helped create the RFP and worked on the town’s Master Plan, and the town structured the RFP so it breaks down into three categories: background information, request for proposals and submission requirements.

Background information involves community characteristics, redevelopment objectives, phasing and timing, site details and constraints, zoning summary, and selection process.

Request for Proposals involves contact information, RFP availability, question period, pre-submission meeting, liability and revisions, and response date/format.

Submission requirements involve statement of understanding, concept narrative/drawings, team description/experience, financing/financial capacity, land acquisition/zoning, marketing and management, and implementation plan/timeline.

RFP objectives include mixed-income housing with a preference toward retail housing, creating a majority of the units for those making 30 - 120 percent of Area Median Income with 25 percent of those units deemed affordable, and having 10 percent of the units include three bedrooms.

Goyes noted they prefer developers create 100 percent of the units for affordability.

Design guidelines include integration with the neighborhood, consideration of size and scale and public amenities and access for neighboring businesses. And the plan should minimize, if not eliminate, the use of fossil fuels.

Regardless of who the town chooses, expect more affordable housing units, which brings the town that much closer to 10 percent (though still pretty far away; however, as long as it continues developing 40 units per year it remains safe from unwanted 40B projects).

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