That Place Called Home on Halcyon Way: Vineyard Builders Give Back
to the Island


The steady banging of hammers and hum of table saws drifting across
Old County Road in West Tisbury offered every indication that the
Halcyon Way work site was just another Island home under construction.

But the concentration of construction vehicles from a half-dozen
different contractors, a three-year-old running around with a half-pint
tool belt strapped to her waist and the crock pots full of chowder and
chili suggested otherwise.

More than a dozen Islanders rose with the sun Saturday to bang cedar
shingles into the West Tisbury duplex - helping contractor Tucker
Hubbell shave thousands of dollars off the affordable housing
project's bottom line.

"It would have taken me and another guy the better part of 10
days to shingle this house," said Mr. Hubbell, a 25-year veteran
of the trade, who is building the home for the Island Affordable Housing
Development Corporation for only hourly wages.

And Mr. Hubbell, using the good graces of fellow contractors and a
half dozen novices, poured just shy of 100 volunteer hours into the
Halcyon Way project.

By the end of the beautiful fall afternoon, Mr. Hubbell, Eric
Whitman, Ken Leuchtenmacher, Harold Chapdelaine, David Ferraguzzi, Pat
Mitchell, Peter Huntington, Mike Lynch, John Abrams and David Vigneault
pounded hundreds of cedar shingles into the classic Cape. The crew
extended their normal Monday through Friday routine into Saturday to
help Mr. Hubbell and the cause. By day's end the builders and
helpers covered more than half the house, saving the development
corporation about $1,500 in labor costs and pushing the completion date
ahead by several days.

The builders, each with decades of experience, stood far enough
apart to claim plenty of work space but close enough to eye one
another's shingling techniques.

"Getting the banter down is more than half of it," said
Mr. Chapdelaine after critiquing a volunteer on a habit learned from
another builder.

The contractors positioned themselves around the "shinglers in
training" - code for the handful of unskilled volunteers
- to teach the art of Island shingling. Three-year-old Willa
Vigneault, who lives just down the street, practiced writing her name in
pencil on the top of a row of shingles as she handed nails to her

Patching together state grants, land owned by the Dukes County
Regional Housing Authority, donations and discounts from Island
tradesmen and retailers, the Island Affordable Housing Development
Corporation, Mr. Hubbell and architect Margaret Curtin will add two
two-bedroom rental units to the Vineyard's meager affordable
housing stock. The group also took advantage of new West Tisbury zoning
regulations that allow by special permit multi-family dwellings for
affordable housing.

"The town of West Tisbury deserves credit, specifically the
planning board for redoing the zoning bylaws to allow more flexibility
in zoning, such as duplexes and building on substandard lots [for
affordable housing]," Mr. Hubbell said.

Two months shy of deadline, Mr. Hubbell expects the entire project
to come in under $215,000. Square footage breakdown for the two
950-square-foot apartments comes to $112 per square foot - $17
less than low-end modular homes and about $70 less than the average new
home built on the Vineyard. Rental income from families earning less
than 80 per cent of median income, about $850 a month plus utilities,
will pay back the $125,000 mortgage from Martha's Vineyard
Cooperative Bank.

Mr. Hubbell - who admits his two college-age children may
never be able to afford a home on the Vineyard - is acutely aware
of the Island's affordable housing crisis.

"My wife and I bought our land in 1979 for $20,000. We were
just under the wire. I wish I'd bought land years ago and stored
it away for my children," Mr. Hubbell said.

Mr. Hubbell, who has watched lot prices quadruple in a mere 10 years
in the same subdivision, decided to take a break from his for-profit
company to bang nails for clients who might otherwise believe Island
builders and affordable home ownership to be beyond their reach.

"It's nice to be able to do something to give back to
the community," Mr. Hubbell said while giving a tour through the
two apartments tucked inside the single-family residence facade.

After completing the Halcyon Way project in early December,
he'll start work on another affordable home in West Tisbury for a
nonprofit group, The Good House Association, that he and a handful of
other Island residents started recently.

"Hopefully I won't lose my shirt and my kids won't
have to drop out of college in the process," Mr. Hubbell said.

Mr. Hubbell's son, Tim, a senior at Boston College, joined his
father at the Halcyon Way duplex this summer to learn the trade and move
the project along.

"To spend time with your child as an adult is really
rewarding," Mr. Hubbell said.

"Plus, it was nice to have a young body around," he
added, noting that he can only survive so many days of framing as he
grows older.

The Halcyon Way duplex shows no sign that it was designed and
constructed to meet affordable standards. Mr. Hubbell and the
subcontractors cut no corners - from the meticulous shingling job
to cedar casings around top-line windows to sturdy and detailed
cabinets. Without breaks from subcontractors and suppliers, Mr. Hubbell
knows the bottom line would have soared well beyond $215,000.

"Everyone who's worked on this has given
something," he said. The company even received a used washer and
dryer to install in one of the apartments. And Sarah Vail of
Threadworks, who balanced her baby on one hip while daughter Willa
helped outside, measured windows in hopes of donating some curtains to
the house.

As Mr. Hubbell gazed at the crowd of volunteers, the builder
appeared touched but not surprised by the generous spirit that has moved
this project along for the past five months.

"This community has done a lot for me and others. It was time
to give back," he said.