Written by Brian Benson for the MetroWest Daily News, originally published on 4/23/16
NATICK - A local developer is considering a mix of housing and shops for land along Route 135 between Lincoln and Wilson Streets that could transform a Natick Center block.
Representatives of Natick-based Stonegate Group, which has the property under agreement, presented to the Planning Board Wednesday a preliminary concept to tear down the former 45 East Central St. Catholic school building on site and build housing and shops.
Architect Jim Alexander said project officials are considering one-and two-bedroom units that would appeal to people over 55 and young professionals.
The developer is considering potentially 50 to 70 housing units.
Parking would be underneath the development. The developer also plans to take cues from the neighborhood in designing a project, which could include a courtyard that fits well with open space on neighboring properties, Alexander said.
Planners offered mixed feelings on the potential subject, with some worrying about density and others praising elements such as underground parking. Proponents would need to get Town Meeting to approve a zoning change.
"I liked everything I saw tonight. I appreciate that there's a lot of sensitivity to the neighbors," Planning Board member Andrew Meyer said. "Something like this gives us an opportunity to really work collaboratively."
Board member Julian Munnich wondered why town officials would want to increase the amount of housing allowed on the site.
"Density is a tough sell on a corridor that is already jammed," he said.
Cathi Collins, who lives on Walkup Court off East Central Street, said East Central is "already a traffic nightmare."
She worried the development could add traffic and put pressure on municipal services such as schools and public safety departments.
Planning Board Chairwoman Terri Evans said she would like some element of the school building preserved. She said she also worries about extending downtown zoning that allows a mixed use development too far from the core downtown. That could take away from the compact, walk-able downtown the town has strived to achieve.
Alexander said project officials looked at saving the school but found it unfeasible to convert the large building to another use.
Board member Peter Nottonson said he is "very enthusiastic about the concept presented here" and looks forward to seeing further progression in designing a project.
Written by Brian Benson for the MetroWest Daily News, originally published on 4/22/16
NATICK- A developer planning to turn the vacant downtown American Legion building into space for housing and business has begun interior work.
Stonegate Group, on a Facebook page set up to track progress, reported it has taken down interior walls and done other work.
The Zoning Board of Appeals has voted to approve the development, which will preserve the historic portion of the building fronting West Central Street and replace a newer addition in the rear with a multi-story addition. The ZBA expects to sign the decision for the 13 West Central St. project on Monday, according to its agenda.
The project will create 11 units of housing and space for businesses, including potentially two restaurants, said Jamie Errickson, the town's director of community and economic development.
"That's a pretty iconic building in the center," Errickson said, adding the project is a good example of preserving a historic building while bringing in new uses.
Errickson said the development concept did not change significantly during the ZBA's review. The board focused on finer points of the project, which is on a relatively small size. The trash and recycling area, for example, was moved inside when it had originally been planned for outdoors.
Stonegate plans to provide roughly two dozen parking spaces, including underground spaces, associated with the project, Errickson said.
Demand from restaurant patrons will likely be greatest at night and on weekends, when there is parking available in a nearby town lot, he said.
The building was built around 1880 and has hosted a variety of organizations including a furniture company, Natick District Court and an American Legion post, according to a press release Stonegate issued in February before the ZBA meetings on the project began.
"We are proud to be involved in bringing life back to this prominent Natick landmark," Sean McGrath, president of Stonegate said in the release.
Information on the projects and photos of work are available on Facebook at Stonegate West Central.