Neighbors and members of the Planning Board like most parts of the plan to redevelop the GE Ionics site on Grove Street, but the traffic plans upset neighbors and the board, alike.
Developer Cresset Grove LLC proposes to reduce the size of the existing building at 65 Grove St. and create a 134,000-square-foot office and research facility, with a multi-story garage.
“The proposal encompasses an exciting facelift to an older structure which we think really reinvigorates the structure and reinvigorates the site itself,” said Bill York, the attorney representing the developers.
The site has been unused since 2010 when GE move out. Ed Nardi of Cresset Grove LLC said he does not have a tenant lined up yet.
The site would have around 350 parking spaces, most of which would go into a garage that will accommodate approximately 290 vehicles.
How the cars will get in and out of the site is the major sticking point. The proposal presented to the Planning Board included having cars enter from Grove Street and leave out of two exits on Crawford Street.
Crawford has several homes on it, and residents and neighbors said they don’t want 350 cars going down their street each day.
“It is supposed to be an improvement to the neighborhood,” said Rita Colella, who lives on Crawford Street right next to the site. “We are fine with the development – it is a huge improvement. It is just the traffic issue with the garage and so many more cars.”
Developers promised to take steps to try to reduce the number of cars coming to the site by having the tenant offer discount MBTA passes, encouraging carpooling by giving preferred parking spots and providing secure bicycle parking facilities and showers for those biking to work.
Planning Board member Jeffrey Brown said he thinks all the cars should enter and exit onto Grove Street.
“It seems to me odd that you would drive traffic out onto Crawford into the neighborhood,” Brown said. “You should find a way to have them exit onto Grove Street, even if have to take a chunk of the building off or go through the building somehow.”
The site has one entrance right now, but traffic engineer Rebecca Brown of TEC said it is only 16 feet wide. It would need to be at least 18 feet wide, preferably 20 feet wide to have two way traffic.
When Ionics was using the building, there used to be an exit on the other side, which now is used as a driveway by the Atrium School.
Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis said that the traffic patterns in the area needs to be developed to work with both current and future developments. She said that the driveway was changed to serve the Atrium School while the Ionics building was not being used, but she argued that 65 Grove St. is a bigger site and should be given priority.
“Atrium School wanted its own traffic pattern. There were a lot of community meetings, and the neighborhood decided they supported the school’s plan,” Kounelis said. “Now we need the assistance of the Atrium School. We don’t need to play hardball, we need to be a cohesive neighborhood. The access point on Grove Street was always two way, until Atrium school came in.”
Kounelis said other changes will be coming in the area, and she said “we need to make improvements and need to make them now before we make commitments for this or other sites.”
Developers examined several options for traffic patterns, according to Rebecca Brown. They looked at turning a section of Crawford leading to the intersection with Nichols Avenue and Arlington Street into a two way street so cars can go that way, and not impact homes.
Town staff said the intersection has a light with too many different directions that cars coming from that direction would only have about 15 seconds of green before waiting 2 minutes. Cars would back up on the site.
The Planning Board voted to continue the meeting until the March meeting.
“I think there is general agreement this is a good project if we can work on the traffic,” said Planning Board Chairman John Hawes.