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2 mixed-use projects OK'd at 'eyesore' sites

Two more mixed-use projects, at two sites regarded as eyesores, have received unanimous Redevelopment Board approval. Both projects reflect numerous design changes that board members had requested.

887massave 400 81317New look of approved commercial-residential building at 887 Mass. Ave., next to Mystic Wine. / Michael Aveni rendering

-- At 483 Summer St., the site of the former Nano's garage, Campobasso Properties of Arlington plans to build nine residential units and two offices.

-- At 887 Mass Ave., next to Mystic Wine Shoppe, developer John Carney aims to demolish a long-closed garage and build four residential units and three retail spaces.

The Aug. 7 votes bring the number of major mixed-use projects to four since Town Meeting approved bylaws permitting conbinng commercial and residential units. Links to reports about those projects are below.

Product Manager Michael Murray, accompanied by Campobasso officials and Carney, presented changes to the 483 Summer St. plan.

They include removing awnings, turning the retail space into two offices (Campobasso will be in one), changing the design to emphasize the center outcropping, moving the space for bicycles indoors, replacing a second-floor office with an apartment, eliminating about 60 percent of the basement, adding a tree in the front as well as enlarging front windows and adding others. The bike space includes access for Campobasso's next-door property, at 489 Summer.

No orientation change; remediation queries

The plan's current orientation toward Summer has not changed, as the board had suggested, because of cost. "We're trying to mimic a grand look without spending a lot of money," Murray said.

Board members Andrew West and Kin Lau expressed appreciation for the changes in building appearance. Member Dave Watson said he was happy about the responsiveness on bike issue.

Member Gene Benson raised questions about remediation of the site, a former garage. Murray said a licensed site professional had been hired for onsite monitoring, usual in overseeing environmental issues.

"We don't know the quantity" of material to be remediated, he said, adding that it would have no harmful effect on human health. "We won’t construct a building that is suspect."

Benson noted three differing substances at the site having reportable amounts cited in a state report.

Murray said 35 borings took place on site, oil storage tanks would be removed and soil tested.

"It's not contaminated," Cynthia Campobasso, company vice president, said of the site.

Lau noted state funding available for remediation of a former gas station site.

Neighboring residents had raised questions in the past, but none spoke Aug. 7.

Raitt said the 5-0 vote to approve the 483 Summer St. project included amendments. They were corrections, including that the bicycle room has space for at least 20 bikes (the original report said 10) and that the building will be serviced by electric, not gas.

887 Mass. Ave. plan revamped

As to the plan for 887 Mass., the developer's attorney, Robert Annese, said, "We went to school" on what board members suggested in June.

He called the former design "choppy," leading to a number of changes. After meeting Inspectional Services Director Michael Byrne, the developer converted three of six parking spaces to fit compact cars, which opened up added space.

The proposed building has a fresh design. To make it "more friendly," Annese said the color is lighter, balconies were added, awnings were removed and space was provided for a sign. Retail windows were enlarged, and hats atop bump-outs were removed.

As to landscaping, added were a picket fence and two trees in the front. Among other changes (for a complete list, click here >>):

-- Part of the building on the Schouler Court side has been extended to create rooms for covered bicycle storage and trash;

-- Part of the commercial entryway has been modified to be flush, not set back;

-- Floor height of the first floor has been raised to 14 feet; and

-- Windows on the second and third floors are now casement.

Board Chair Andrew Bunnell said he appreciates the opening up of ground-level retail. West called the overall plan "a much better direction." He suggested tweaks, giving tops of windows near roof more room to breathe.

Asking whether the balconies are usable, Watson was told they are not. He suggested having bicycle rack out front for retail customers.

Future sign consideration

Speaking for his client at next-door Mystic Wine, attorney John Maher said requested future board consideration of a free-standing sign. He said that drivers westbound on Mass. Ave. would not be able to see the store, because the new development would block it.

Maher made clear his client does not oppose the project.

Annese said that if this comes before the board, the developer would support the request.

Jonathan Tyberg, of Trowbridge Street, said he was "thrilled and happy someone is doing this project." He called it a "great opportunity."

Until it closed in 1995, Computune, a garage, was on the site. A gasoline station was on the site as early as 1924. Now residents know it as the fenced-off white building with a red X on it,

Raitt said the 5-0 vote included these amendments: In its final plans, the applicant will make modifications to the cornice and to the sign band to better integrate with other building materials; enhance door trim around the rear entry to residential units; and adjust the site plan, adding a bike rack at the west side along Mass. Ave. and adding an allowable landscape screening along the driveway. 


June 28, 2017: Summer St. developer is asked to sharpen design, adjust building
June 17, 2017: Design guidance offered for precedent-setting mixed-use plan
Dec. 6, 2016: Affordable housing at Downing Square gets Redevelopment Board OK
Nov. 22, 2016: First key mixed-use project OK'd

This news summary was published Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017.

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