A proposal to build a condominium building on a vacant piece of land near Watertown Square got the recommendation of the Planning Board on Monday night.
A similar project at 33 Mt. Auburn St. received approval from the Town in 2013 and building permits were issued, but the construction never started and the permits elapsed.
The old project had 24 rental units and 1,979 sq. ft. of commercial space. The new proposal has 15 condos and 1,924 sq. ft. of commercial or retail space.
“We combined the one bedrooms into two bedrooms,” said architect Steve Hurley of Janovsky/Hurley Architects.
District B Town Councilor Lisa Feltner said she spoke to several residents of the condo building behind 33 Mt. Auburn St. on Arsenal Street. They have some concerns.
“They are concerned with the views from (the new building) being close to their building and windows,” Feltner said.
Another big change is the old project had two levels of parking – one at ground level and one below – with 36 parking spaces. Builders discovered that the water table was high and there would be drainage problems with the under ground level of parking.
The old project had a garage entrance and exit on Mt. Auburn Street but that was changed.
“We realized we could get 19 spaces on Taylor Street at grade,” Hurley said.
For a project with that many housing units and commercial space 20 spaces are required, so developers needed a special permit. Four of the spaces will be for the commercial space and 15 would be for the condos.
Resident Joan Gumbleton said that she does not think that four spots would be enough for a business such as a nail salon, adding that parking is hard to find on that stretch of Mt. Auburn Street, already.
As part of the project, developers have agreed to work with the Town to build a pocket park on Taylor Street. The land is owned by the Town.
Planning Board member Payson Whitney said he liked many aspects of the project.
“It will fill the hole on Mt. Auburn Street, that’s good,” Whitney said. “I like to the change to condos – more ownership.”
Planning Board members wondered what would be going into the commercial space in the project. Member Janet Buck said the Community Path will be coming down Taylor Street and she sees it as a nice place for walkers or bicyclists to stop, grab a coffee and sit in the pocket park.
Attorney Bill York, who represented the developers, said no one is lined up for the space, yet.
“We hope it will be retail to bring more vitality to the Square,” York said. “We are not sure yet. The first thing to do is look at retail.”
Planning Board member Gary Shaw noted that there is no public open space as part of the project, since the pocket park is on Town land.
The Planning Board voted 5-0 to recommend that the Zoning Board of Appeals approve the special permit and site plan review for the 33 Mt. Auburn St. project. The project is on the agenda for the March 28, 2018 ZBA meeting in Town Hall. The begins at 7 p.m.