Assabet River Bluff, Concord

View from the Pine Street bridge
View from the Pine Street bridge
View from Assabet River Bluff. Photo by SVT.
View from Assabet River Bluff. Photo by SVT.

Assabet River Bluff has been conserved!

On August 9, 2022, the Town of Concord and the Concord Housing Development Corporation purchased this 7-acre property that sits along the Assabet River and the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail in Concord. Six acres will be protected as open space, and one acre will be set aside for affordable housing.

SVT and the Concord Conservation Land Trust assisted with fundraising and public outreach initiatives. Together, we are working on a conservation restriction that we will co-hold to provide an additional layer of protection for the property.

At a Glance
  • The Assabet River Bluff property consists of two parcels totaling 7 acres along the Assabet River and the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, including a two-family home at 406 Old Marlboro Road. 
  • In summer 2021, the owners offered the Town of Concord one year (at least through May 2022 Town Meeting) to come up with a proposal to purchase it for $2.8 million.
  • The Concord Community Preservation Committee approved a proposal to use open space and affordable housing funds to purchase the property.
  • Five units of affordable housing are proposed on one acre of the property ("Parcel A" on map; open pdf). This includes the existing two-family home at 406 Old Marlboro.

The Town was awarded a $500,000 Land & Water Conservation Fund grant toward the purchase, and was given approval to close. The property was purchased on August 9, 2022. SVT and CLCT will co-hold a conservation restriction over the land to give it further protection.

Thank you to everyone who has supported this project.


Project Background

Once the Town learned that the Assabet River Bluffs parcels were on the market, Town officials reached out to the seller to evaluate whether there was interest in working together to obtain the land for the joint goals of land conservation, housing, and public access. The seller has confirmed that there is interest, and the purchase price is firm at $2.8 million and has further agreed to keep the land off the market through 2022 Town Meeting so that funding from the Community Preservation Act, donations, and free cash can be secured.

There was no doubt that the property would have been otherwise sold for development into six single-family homes or as many as 11 units in a Planned Residential Development. By purchasing the land, the Town now has control over the scale, density, and design of the housing, and the extent and configuration of the open space.

With a positive vote at Town Meeting in May 2022 to commit $1,000,000 in Community Preservation Funds towards the housing and open space, and additional funding commitments from Concord’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the Concord Housing Foundation, SVT and CLCT, were able to raise the remaining funds necessary for the purchase.

Assabet River Bluff consists of two parcels, 2B Upland Road and 406 Old Marlborough Road. 406 Old Marlborough includes an existing, two-family home. 

  • The Assessor’s records show that the two parcels total 5.61 acres but it is believed to be larger than that. An “on-the-ground” survey is needed to confirm the actual area of each parcel. 
  • 2B Upland has extensive frontage on the Assabet River, which is subject to the State Rivers Protection Act. The first 100’ of setback from the River is protected from development. The second 100’ is susceptible to some development: up to 5,000 sf or 10% of the parcel’s buildable acreage within the 200-foot Riverfront Area, whichever is greater. Rough calculations indicate that approximately 130,000 SF (3 acres) of Riverfront Area is present onsite, meaning that about 13,000 SF (0.3 acres) of the outer Riverfront Area is developable.
  • An intermittent stream follows the south property line of 2B Upland. In accordance with the Natural Resources Commission’s “No Build Policy”, no development may take place in the first 50’ setback from the stream. Limited development may take place in the second 50’, pending NRC approval under the state Wetlands Protection Act and Concord Wetlands Bylaw. 
  • The property is designated BioMap2 Core Habitat in the State Natural Heritage and Endangered Species program (NHESP). This does not provide additional protections beyond the protections offered by the Wetlands Protection Act or the Rivers Protection Act. This designation is used as a conservation planning tool.  There are no identified rare species onsite, so the NHESP has no regulatory authority to review a project here. 
  • The property provides upland and wetland habitat for a variety of species, terrestrial and avian, and helps protect water quality for the fish and amphibians that inhabit the Assabet River.
  • This section of the Assabet River is also designated as a Federal Wild and Scenic River. This does not provide additional protections beyond the protections offered by the Wetlands Protection Act or the Rivers Protection Act.  

The property includes a well-used neighborhood trail that connects the sidewalk at the Pine Street Bridge with the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (BFRT). 

  • About 500’ of this trail crosses four house lots, while the rest is located on the Assabet Bluff land.
  • There is a roughly 50’, comprised of Rail Trail right-of-way and required Zoning setbacks between the Rail Trail and 2B Upland that cannot be disturbed by development on the site. 

2B Upland Road and 406 Old Marlborough Road are privately owned, by DIGI, LLC.

  • The landowners have given the Town until July 2022 to designate funds to purchase the land for $2.8 million.
  • If not purchased by the Town, the owners will sell to another buyer, likely a private developer, who can build up to six conventional, single-family homes, which requires approval from the Planning Board or possibly 11 units in a basic Planned Residential Development, which would require approval from the ZBA, with a recommendation from the Planning Board and NRC, and neither guarantee public access. 

    With a 6-lot standard subdivision (and assuming no waivers are requested), approximately 2.7 acres of existing riverfront would be preserved solely through the existing River Protection Act, with no public access. The subdivision road would most likely be from Upland Road.

    With a privately developed PRD, the density of 11 dwelling units (all at market rate) with approximately 2.7 ac. preserved with the potential for public access because the PRD Bylaw requires preservation of open space, but does not mandate that the open space be publicly accessible.  Additionally, the PRD Bylaw allows an increase in the Basic Density up to two times the basic density or 22 units, if affordable housing is provided. The access roadway would most likely be from Upland Road although #406 Old Marlboro might be an option for access. 

The Concord Community Preservation Committee has approved a proposal to purchase this land using a combination of open space and affordable housing funds.

SVT has joined with CLCT, the Concord Housing Development Corporation, and the Concord Division of Planning and Land Management to write a letter in support of the Assabet River Bluff acquisition.

The ultimate decision on the scope of the housing and purchase of the property was made by voters at Annual Town Meeting on May 1. Town voters overwhelmingly approved the use of CPA funds for the purchase of this land.

Now, the Concord Open Land Foundation will purchase 6 acres of the property for open space, and the Concord Housing Development Corporation will purchase 1 acre for affordable housing. Ultimately the Town will own the open space portion, once federal grant funding is awarded. 

The total cost for the open space parcel is $1.9 million, including project costs such as surveys, legal fees, and engineering.  As approved by Town Meeting, the Community Preservation Committee contributed $700,000.

CLCT and SVT agreed to raise as much of the remaining $1.2 million as possible, through a combination of individual gifts and grants. 

In order to be eligible for the grants, which would come from either state or federal sources, the Town is required to approve the full project amount at Town Meeting, using a combination of CPC funds and free cash or borrowing. However, it is the project partners' intent that private fundraising and grants ultimately replace the cash or borrowed funds. 

Thank you to everyone who supported our fundraising campaign and helped SVT and CLCT reach our fundraising goal.

Breakdown (includes $100,000 for project transaction expenses)

Community Preservation Act - Housing $300,000
Community Preservation Act - Open Space $700,000
Town Affordable Housing Trust Funds - Existing $650,000
Concord Housing Foundation Funds   $50,000
Private Fundraising and Grants $700,000
Land & Water Conservation Fund Grant $500,000