By Hiroko Sato

MediaNews

DEVENS -- From a nonprofit housing organization to a publicly traded industry heavy hitter to a local builder known for green and affordable subdivisions, a wide range of developers is lining up to win a contract to rebuild the Grant Road neighborhood in Devens.

MassDevelopment announced earlier this month that six companies have expressed interest in the Grant Road project involving the construction of 120 new housing units, including some affordable housing.

The quasi-public economic development agency said more recently that five of the developers who responded to the request for qualification came from within Massachusetts, while the other from Rhode Island. The companies are:

* The Community Builders, of Boston.

* The Evergreen Village Collaborative, of Lexington, including Ajax Partners, LLC, Genesis Planners/NOW Communities, Union Studio Architecture & Community Design, and Bensonwood and Unity Homes.

* Peregrine Group, of Rumford, R.I., with Prellwitz Chillinski Architects and H.V. Collins Company.

* Plute Homes of New England, LLC, of Westboro.

* Shepard Investment, of Hingham, with Protean Ventures, LLC, Carr, Lynch and Sandell, Inc., and Shepard Construction, LLC.

* Transformations, Inc., of Townsend, with architect Ben Nickerson and J.C. Construction.

Transformations brings the experience of building eight "zero-net energy" single-family homes in Devens as part of MassDevelopment's green-housing pilot program in recent years.


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Zero-net energy homes refer to those that are equipped with power-generating devices, such as solar panels, to produce all energy required for homeowners to live in them.

Genesis Planners and NOW Communities are also known for their ecological development skills.

NOW developed Concord Riverwalk, a 3.7-acre "low-impact" development with 13 compact homes, on Main Street in West Concord.

Plute is an industrial heavy hitter with its shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, while The Community Builders is a nonprofit organization known for affordable housing development.

Ed Starzec, land-entitlement director for MassDevelopment, said all developers said they can and will include affordable housing units, although none suggested those units would account for more than 25 percent of the project -- the minimum ratio required under state law for a development to be regarded as an affordable project.

MassDevelopment also encouraged developers to come up with other components, such as nursing homes, for the 70-acre neighborhood that was once home to many Army junior officers. Starzec said no developers have suggested nursing homes, but some are proposing housing that is specifically designed for the elderly.

The average price for market-rate, single-family homes is estimated to be about $400,000, but there will be a wide range of price options, Starzec said. He said the most difficult part of the project is that it includes various types of housing -- large and small single-family homes and duplexes, as well as rentals.

One of the builders hopes to develop just a portion of the neighborhood, while others want to build out the entire neighborhood. Should the former be selected for the project, MassDevelopment would choose at least one another developer to work as a team.

Starzec believes the developers' interest in the project reflects the real-estate market that has begun to recover, as well as their preference to work with municipal agencies that can provide a lot of support.

"This is one of the few opportunities out there right now in this part of the state" for developers, Starzec said of the Grant Road project.

MassDevelopment hopes to present its recommendations to its board this summer. The agency wants to see construction start next spring, Starzec said.