The above image illustrates the spectrum of residential housing. All too often all across the USA there is a gap which is called “missing middle housing”. The middle has gone missing primarily through short sighted planning and zoning backed up by a perverse NIMBYism.
Mansfield actually has a small sampling of those elements found in the “middle” but like many suburban era communities we’ve missed out on a more comprehensive mix of stock. I was reminded of this a total of three times over the past year.
At the last Town Meeting there was much discussion over Article 35 which sought a zoning chage to allow for a 55 plus development within the R1 zone. A cornerstone of this matter was the truth that for those looking to downsize and stay in Mansfield ones affordable & reasonable options are few. The opposition by some R1’ers who insist on bucolic acres was somewhat alarming.
Another reminder came in November while running in the Special Election. Researching the growth and development of the town and seeing the recent large scale developments come fully on line (think One Mansfield) I was disappointed at the obvious void of our “missing middle”. For me this was doubly troubling since I am a strong believer in incremental growth and retaining a more human scale throughout our various neighborhoods. I also came to Mansfield by first renting a townhouse at 180 Rumford Ave before purchasing a single family home. This is an example of how the middle serves people throughout the phases of their life and supports community.
The most recent reminder came via Facebook and a post on Everything Mansfield. The potential for new construction of duplex units on North Main by First St gathered a handful of comments that demonstrated our fundamental lack of appreciating the value of the missing middle.
Mansfields future development will come almost exclusively from infill. When we look at infill it is important not to forget the “missing middle” stock. It is even more important we don’t forsake the smarter choice of small bets and incremental growth that not only addresses the missing middle needs of Mansfield but prevents the monoliths from blowing out scale.
Let’s be a stronger town,let’s be a smarter town and by all means let’s be UNITED.