The first time developers of the former GE Ionics Building on Grove Street came to the Planning Board they met loud opposition because the plan had hundreds of cars exiting onto a residential street, but they worked with their neighbor – the Atrium School – to come up with a solution.
Wednesday night, Cresset Grove LLC presented a new plan that would have all cars from the 135,000 square foot office building come and and leave via Grove Street.
The agreement became official just the night before the Planning Board meeting when the Atrium School School Committee approved the new plan, said Ed Nardi, president of the Cresset Group.
The driveway for the Grove Street project was too narrow to allow cars to enter and exit, so they had to ask the school if they could share their driveway.
Silvia Nerssessian, an Atrium parent and chair of the School Committee, said the school was pleased with the outcome, too.
“Our for most concern was the safety of the children,” Nerssessian said. “We are thankful that they are respectful that we are a school. We really feel like this is a solution that addresses all of that. I am completely backing this redevelopment as a representative of the school and a (Watertown) resident.”
East End Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis thanked Cresset and the Atrium School for working together to make sure that Crawford Street – a small residential street, is not overwhelmed with traffic.
“I think this is wonderful. This is a case of everyone working collaboratively,” Kounelis said. “I commend Mr. Nardi and the Atrium School for working this out. I think this is a win-win situation for everyone. Nothing is perfect, but I think we can work with this.”
Under the old plan two driveways leading to Crawford Street would have been the only way out for all vehicles from the office building. The exit goes between houses on Crawford Street. Now it will serve a drop off lot for parents at Atrium.
The plan also calls for a 295 car parking garage, with 60 more spaces of ground-level parking. Planning Board Chairman John Hawes asked developers to figure out a way to screen the garage from neighbors.
Nardi said a six-foot fence would be put up on on the edge of the property, and trees would be planted, too. Also, a screen of some kind would be put up. The original plan was to have bamboo serve as the screening, but some oppose that. Nardi said he will look at other vegetative screens or maybe a graphic screen.
A driveway that was proposed to go around the parking garage has been removed from the plan and will be replaced with more landscaping, Nardi said.
Hawes said he is happy to see a developer willing to work with neighbors and the town to come up with a solution.
“This isn’t the way it was 20 years ago,” Hawes said. “Everyone is pulling together, including the (Town) Council to make it happen.”
The Planning Board voted 4-0 to support the 65 Grove Street project. Now it will go to the Zoning Board of Appeals for final approval.