Development Impact Analysis
Riverbridge Mixed-Use Development Fiscal Impact AnalysisBerlin, MA
In 2009, the Berlin Planning Board asked COG to analyze the fiscal impact of a proposed mixed-use development known as Riverbridge. Located at the South Berlin Rotary less than a mile from the Solomon Pond Mall, Riverbridge consists of 470,000 sq. ft. of floor area with housing, retail stores, offices, and a continuing care retirement center (CCRC).
Berlin is a very small town of 2,800 people. Due to some large commercial projects along Berlin’s borders — including Solomon Pond Mall, which straddles the Berlin/Marlborough line, and Highland Commons in Hudson and Berlin — the Town knows how to protect its interests and negotiate with developers. However, Riverbridge proved especially challenging because it includes housing in addition to commercial space. Although COG found that Riverbridge would have a beneficial fiscal impact on Berlin, the Town’s Finance Committee initially opposed it, fearing that the cost to provide municipal and school services would exceed the tax revenue generated by the project. In May 2009, many residents at Town Meeting agreed, and the zoning required for the project failed to secure a two-thirds vote.
Nevertheless, the Planning Board continued to work with the developers, the Finance Committee, and other local officials. At the Planning Board’s request, COG prepared a fiscal impact analysis of the revised plan for Riverbridge and determined that it would still have a positive impact on the Town’s finances. Moreover, since Riverbridge includes affordable rental housing, it promised to bring Berlin substantially over the 10 percent statutory minimum under Chapter 40B, thereby eliminating the risk of any large, unwanted comprehensive permits for at least ten years. With the Finance Committee’s backing, the Planning Board and developer won Town Meeting approval of the mixed-use overlay district in October 2009.
Construction at Riverbridge began in August 2010.