In 2009, Mickey Northcutt joined his small development company—basically himself and a single assistant—to the much more established, but leaderless, community development corporation (CDC) in the town next door.
Both CDCs served very low-income neighborhoods in the shadows of factories that closed decades before. Northcutt’s new organization, North Shore Community Development Coalition, builds a bridge between these two communities—the Italian and Irish neighborhoods of Beverly, Mass., and the newer immigrants of the Point neighborhood in Salem—and helps them work together to build affordable housing.
“He’s a great guy,” says Lucy Corchado, president of the Point Neighborhood Association and board member of North Shore Community Development Coalition. “He cares, and he follows up with action.”
Northcutt started his career in affordable housing as a property manager at Maloney Properties, Inc., a Boston-based owner and manager of affordable housing. Next, he took a job at MMA Financial, a low-income housing tax credit syndicator and asset manager, which has since sold its portfolio to Boston Financial Investment Management. Northcutt oversaw properties in Arkansas, Florida, and Georgia.
The more Northcutt learned, the more interested he became in development. “I was getting to know how the deals are structured,” he says. “I wanted to do directly what we were talking about all day.”
A job opened in 2006 at the Beverly Affordable Housing Coalition, a small CDC with a portfolio of nine low-income apartments in Beverly. With no formal office, Northcutt borrowed space in the hallway of a local insurance agency.
By 2008, the Beverly Affordable Housing Coalition had partnered with organizations including the YMCA of the North Shore, bought three development sites, and arranged financing for 100 units of affordable housing. Today, 79 of those units are finished, and the other 21 are under construction. But Beverly’s full-time staff still just included Northcutt and an assistant.
Across an inlet of the Salem Sound, Salem Harbor CDC had a strong bench of asset managers, office space in downtown Salem, and a portfolio of more than 100 affordable rental units. “Salem had a stable portfolio and administrative staff,” says Northcutt. But Salem Harbor had little new construction in the works.
Talks to combine the two organizations accelerated in late 2009 after the existing director left Salem Harbor. In July 2010, the boards of the two groups voted to merge, becoming North Shore Community Development Coalition.
North Shore has kept busy with projects that include the $400,000 energy-efficiency retrofit of the 77-unit Salem Point Apartments. This summer, North Shore also received a brownfields grant to begin the preservation of another 77 units of housing in 11 buildings in Salem.
North Shore is looking to expand again, this time into another deeply low-income neighborhood in Peabody.
The developer is planning a small project to rehabilitate a historic courthouse at the heart of Peabody into as many as 10 apartments, which will include housing for formerly homeless families. This development would be part of Peabody’s planning process to revitalize its downtown.
“We’ve been able to do some really impactful community planning work,” Northcutt says. “We don’t want to just be a developer.”
Over the summer, North Shore hired 14 teens from the three communities it serves through the Youth Jobs Programs. The teens participated in graffiti removal, wrote letters to the owners of troubled properties, and took neighborhood walks with elected officials including the mayor of Peabody.