Wednesday night, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved a major office renovation, including a new garage, noting that the project had been a collaboration of developers with the town and neighbors.
The project at 65 Grove Street, being developed by Cresset Grove LLC, includes 135,000 square feet of office space, and a garage that will fit 295 vehicles. Developer Ed Nardi told the ZBA he does not have a tenant lined up.
He envisions it becoming a first-class office building or used for research and development. The site could house one to six tenants, and could have 300-500 employees depending on the use, Nardi said.
Some major changes have been made to the project, including rerouting the traffic flow so that all the vehicles enter and leave the site using Grove Street. This was done by having the developer coming to and agreement with the next door Atrium School to share a driveway (See more here).
The changes pleased neighbor Rita Colella, who had concerns about the project.
“Through this long process we really appreciate that the town, (Town Councilor) Angie Kounelis, and the developer – Ed Nardi – to work with us,” Colella said. “It’s a huge improvement to the property, and I can’t wait to see it finished.”
Kounelis said she did not deserve kudos, but added that she thought more projects should be approached in this way.
“I think this was a tremendous collaboration of folks showing willingness to work with each other,” Kounelis said. “I hope people, particularly the Atrium School, not feel offense to my tough love attitude for our fragile neighborhood.”
The area where the project is located, East Watertown, has seen a major rise in redevelopment. Kounelis said she hopes similar collaborations can be made in future projects.
“We do need to work together as a neighborhood, as abutters, to make something better happen with what we have. This is exactly what can materialize. A much better project,” Kounelis said. “We know there will be traffic in the neighborhood. We know there is going to be congestion. But we should be doing the best we can with what we have, and have a willingness a true understanding for what our goals are what our motives are for our neighborhood and get a project that everyone is comfortable with.”
There will be more traffic that currently comes from the site – which has been unused since 2011 – but there will be fewer cars than when the project was last fully occupied, said Rebecca Brown, traffic engineer from TEC.
The approved development would have an estimated 1,532 trips per week, which is 20 less than before. The morning commute would have 226 trips, down two, and 216 in the evening commute – 11 fewer, Brown said.
Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon said the developer has agreed to contribute $175,000 for transportation improvements, which the town can use to improve traffic in the neighborhood.
Employers at the project will also have a traffic demand management plan, with subsidized transit passes, carpooling and ride matching, bicycle accommodations and preferential parking for carpoolers as well as hybrid and electric cars.
Zoning Board Chairwoman Melissa Santucci said she was pleased with the amount of added green space with the project.
“You are adding nearly 20 (percentage points) of open space and the requirement is 10 percent, so that is nearly 15 (percentage points) more,” Santucci said. “That is worth noting.”
The garage will be sunk down and not as visible from the street, but will be visible to neighbors in the back. Screening has been planned, including bamboo that will grow up to cover the side of the garage.
ZBA member David Ferris said worried that the bamboo would not fully cover the side of the garage. He wondered if the color of the concrete of the garage could be tinted a brick color, which would be in keeping with the color of other large buildings in the area.
Nardi said he is open to tinting the concrete, but he is not sure of the cost of doing so, and would have to look into that.
The project was approved unanimously.