Wallace acknowledged that the piecemeal nature makes it more difficult to provide evidence that such a strategy will work.
“I know the councilors want some benchmarks,” she said. “The first thing everybody says is, ‘How do we compare?’ We’re kind of being a leader on this one.”
Wallace has described the strategy as “rooftops before retail,” meaning that new businesses will not open on Rantoul Street until there are more people living there to provide them with steady customers.
“We’ve talked to retailers and to brokers trying to rent to retailers, and they want the 24-7 customer base, no matter who you talk to, whether it’s a national chain or an entrepreneur,” Wallace said.
Wallace said there is already a “solid base” of residents in the downtown, “but what we’re looking to bring in are new people who are looking to start their families here and raise their kids here and make a commitment to Beverly, and also to bring new energy and new dollars.”
Wallace pointed to dry cleaners, markets and take-out cafes as the type of “convenience shopping” businesses that would be drawn to Rantoul Street if there were more people living there.
Opponents have criticized the portion of the law requiring that 25 percent of new residential units in a TIF district be affordable to people earning 80 percent of the area’s media income. A single person with an income of $45,500 would qualify.
Some residents have said the city already has enough affordable housing. According to Department of Housing and Community Development statistics, 11.2 percent of Beverly’s residential units are subsidized, meaning the city ranks 22nd out of the state’s 351 communities in percentage of affordable housing.
Wallace said there is a difference between affordable housing, which people equate with low-income and Section 8 housing, and “workforce” housing, which is how Main Streets describes the units that would be built on Rantoul Street.