Traffic a Concern for Some With Proposal to Renovate Grove Street Site

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Residents recently got their first look at local developers plans to redevelop the former GE Ionics building at 65 Grove St.

Cresset Grove LLC. unveiled its proposed plans to redevelop the former GE building during a community meeting at the Coolidge School apartment complex on Monday Sept. 29. The proposed plans includes large glass windows that would make the building more transparent, a roof terrace, improved drainage system in the parking lot, and a four-story 350 car garage with a bamboo screen wall along the back.

Edward G. Nardi, President of Cresset, said that his company plans on transforming the 130,000 sq. ft. building so that it will be able to compete with office space in Cambridge and Boston to attract business.

As part of that transformation, Cresset plans on removing much of the brick that makes of the building and replacing it with glass in order to give the structure a more modern look. The company also plans on doing landscape work, including planting bushes, trees, and shrubs throughout the site.

Cresset also plans on using some of the plants to treat storm water that lands on the property.

Nardi said that the parking garage is especially important because Cresset doesn’t know who will be occupying the property yet, or what their needs will be. He noted that if the building were being built from scratch, the town would require the company to provide a minimum of 311 parking spaces.

Traffic was a major concern raised by both residents, and Town Councilors alike.

Gabriel Gabremicael, who owns a home on Crawford Street, said he’s concerned a new tenant will cause more cars to drive through the area.

“Right now there’s no traffic,” Gabremicael said. He added that he supports the project as long as the neighborhoods concerns are addressed.

“Wait and see,” Gabremicael said.

Councilor Angeline Kounelis, who spoke before the developers made their presentation, said she had expressed said that she had raised concerns with the developers about not having increased traffic on Crawford Street.

“I feel very strongly that we should not allow that,” Kounelis said.

Kounelis noted the importance of the parking garage. When Tufts Health Plan moved into Watertown many opposed the garage, Kounelis said. Today, there isn’t enough parking to accommodate all of Tufts employees even with the garage.

Cresset hired TEC, a civil and traffic engineering firm based in Lawrence, to analyze traffic flow throughout the neighborhood. Town Council President Mark Sideris suggested that Cresset and TEC work with a developer from Tufts Health Plan on managing the traffic in the area.

Not everyone was as concerned about increased traffic the project could cause. John Kebadjian, who lives in the Coolidge School apartment complex said he liked the proposal and that traffic would probably increase regardless.

“You know, people, they worry about traffic, but you will have traffic no matter what and it’s going to get worse and worse and worse, ” John Kebadjian said. “They’re utilizing buildings that nobody’s using. Might as well do it.”

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