On February 10, 2020, the Natick Board of Selectmen signed an agreement with Stonegate Group LLC, a Natick-based real estate development company, for the redevelopment of the St. Patrick’s school site on East Central Street in downtown Natick. The property has been vacant for five years and was mostly unused for many years before that. The new development will offer space for a new restaurant and/or retail businesses and approximately 500 square feet of office space leased to the Town, an area of public open space, and 54 residential units, some of which will be townhouses. Twenty-five percent of the units will be permanently affordable. Importantly, the agreement controls the development’s transition toward the neighborhood.
Michael J. Hickey, Chair of the Board of Selectmen noted, “Natick residents tell us they want more things to do in Natick Center, like more restaurants and places to shop. We also hear from people who want new and different housing options – places that are walkable, close to shopping and rail. The sorts of places that attract younger professionals, empty-nesters looking to downsize, and people who just want to live downtown. The continued vitality of Natick Center depends on all of these things, so a mixed-use development like this is a great opportunity. At the same time, it’ll add to our tax base and an architectural enhancement to the eastern gateway of the downtown.” The project is consistent with the Natick 2030 Master Plan.
The project is being proposed as a so-called “friendly 40B.” In a friendly 40B, the developer works cooperatively with the town to proactively pursue a mutually beneficial development that helps to meet the Town’s needs for diverse and affordable housing choices. The plan’s open space, potential restaurant/retail, rent-free office space leased to the Town, and share of affordability are aspects of the agreement. Above and beyond the regular 40B requirements, 20% of the affordable units will be reserved for very low income households.
At this time Natick has 1,477 affordable housing units. This project would help ensure Natick maintains its Safe Harbor status. Under state law, municipalities without Safe Harbor have little control over the density, size, or location of 40B projects.
Legal counsel retained by the Board (a firm that has represented the Town’s interests in several 40B matters over the years) advised the Board that executive session was appropriate given that aspects of the Development Agreement that related to the purchase, exchange, lease or value of real property. The development review will be conducted by the Natick Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for a Comprehensive Permit. This permitting approach guarantees a significant contribution of affordable housing units and that all of the units on the site will be counted on Natick’s State Housing Inventory.
For the development to include at least one restaurant, Town Meeting will need to extend Natick’s Downtown Mixed Use zoning by one block to include the front portion of the parcel.
The Stonegate Group has a strong track record in Natick, Boston, and other communities with quality development projects. Most recently Stonegate was responsible for the redevelopment of the former American Legion building in Natick Center, which included new retail space, a popular new restaurant (Buttercup), residential units on the upper floors, and parking below.
There will be many opportunities for public input on this project. Public hearings will take place before the Planning and Zoning Boards, and the Finance Committee. In addition, the Board of Selectmen and Stonegate will host an open house forum on the project on February 25, 2020 from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. to provide information, answer questions, and listen.
Both the Board and Stonegate look forward to hearing the community’s reaction and feedback to the development proposal. “We have a proud history of supporting local businesses and working with communities, and we very much look forward to hearing the community’s thoughts about the development plan,” said Sean McGrath, CEO, Stonegate Group, LLC.
For additional questions regarding this project, please contact the Select Board and Town Administrator at 508.647.6410 or Dean Calivas, President, Stonegate Group, LLC, at 508.655.1700.