Developers of a residential and commercial development of a long, thin strip of land on Pleasant Street brought their latest proposal to the Planning Board Monday night and got approval for the project.
The project at 385 Pleasant Street includes an existing warehouse and three new buildings. It will have 53 rental units – 2 studios, 4 one bedrooms, 14 one-bedroom lofts, and 22 two bedrooms. It will also include more than 10,000 square feet of commercial space. There will be 92 parking spaces on the site.
When the project first came to the Planning Board late last year, it had an additional commercial building, but Planning Board members said the development was too dense. When they returned in January, a smaller commercial building was removed and the commercial space was moved to the existing warehouse building and two stories of residential were added to that building.
In January, Planning Board members said they still thought the area was too congested, especially on the east side of the project, where the back of the property is near the backs of homes on Waltham Street. The site currently has a tall berm with trees on top, an area that used to be a railroad line. The berm, however, will be entirely removed.
On Monday, architect Dartagnan Brown from EMBARC Studio, presented the latest version of the project. It cut down on the amount of residential units on the east side of the project and put them into two buildings instead of three. Designers included more open space while keeping the same amount of parking.
The height of the driving area under the buildings was increased to 11 feet so that trucks could pass through.
Designers also showed some of the materials that will be used in the buildings, which include cement panels of different shades of grey along with some cedar panels on the residential buildings on the east side of the project.
Half the units from the eliminated residential building (five) were added to one of the remaining buildings, while the first building remained the same size. Developers asked the Planning Board to decide which configuration they preferred – having he longer building to the east or west side of the smaller one.
Planning Board Chairman John Hawes said he like option C, the one where the smaller building was on the far east end of the property.
“One thing the board asked for was to move the density west as much as possible … to be more respectful to the the neighbors,” Hawes said. “C is preferable in my opinion.”
Planning Board member Jeffrey Brown said that he didn’t like the project before and he still has problems with it.
“I have been critical of the project from Day 1,” Brown said. “Number 1, I think it is overbuilt.”
Brown added that he has a hard time judging how the project will look because there was no one drawing that showed the entire project with the homes behind it and the approved project on the other side of the road, a mixed residential and retail project at 330, 350 Pleasant Street that will include a restaurant.
Other members said they thought the designers had made some big changes in response to their comments in the last meeting.
With the removal of the berm, the nearby residents and the board have been concerned with the rear of the development, and how the houses will be screened from the new development. Blair Hines from Verdant Landscape Architecture said there would be a six foot wooden fence along with a screening of Green Giant cedar trees. He said they grow fast, and showed a site where they grew about 25 feet in seven growing seasons.
The latest version of the project also includes a bigger pocket park at the corner of Pleasant Street and Rosedale Road. Developers purchased the home at the east end of Waltham Street and got the rights to develop part of the property as a park, increasing the total size of the park by 1,500 sq. ft. to 3,200 sq. ft.
Resident Libby Shaw, a member of Trees for Watertown, said she was disappointed to see the berm being completely removed. She said it not only provides a buffer for noise and light from Pleasant Street but also cleans the air and provides a home for wildlife.
“It is a like a mini Whitney Hill woods and it is all going to vanish, and that is sad,” Shaw said.
Shaw suggested that the developer turn the entire property of the house the purchased and plant a forest there as an attempt to replace the trees lost on the berm. She added that by having the landscaping buffer all one species, a disease or some other problem could kill them all at one time.
The Planning Board unanimously approved the project and requested that the designers provide drawings showing the entire project.