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Altered Mass. Ave. block proposal to return

UPDATED, July 17: The developers of the business block across from Arlington High School came back with a fresh plan, but it drew a new series of questions, and they expected to return with responses July 20. Here is Monday's agenda >>

Drawing of proposal for 882-892 Mass. Ave.Drawing of proposal for 882-892 Mass. Ave.

Robert Annese, an attorney representing the Pasciuto family of Winchester for the project proposed at 882-892 Mass. Ave., said at the July 6 Redevelopment Board meeting that board member Kin Lau met several times with proponents to help craft a plan, which drew many questions in May.

The hearing for a special permit reviewed the application to develop a new mixed-use, four-story building with 22 one-bedroom residential units and one commercial space (1,300 square feet) in a B2 business district. The proposal would replace six locations, two of which – Toraya and Thana Thai – have already left. At one space, ACMi Studio B, negotiations continue.

Could spend $1M on contamination

Among options discussed July 6 was possibly bringing back a displaced restaurant.

Annese said his client has spent $250,000 investigating contaminated soil and may spend $1 million on that. “This is not the Mirak family,” he said.

Redevelopment Board logo, Jan. 23, 2013The environmental issue, identified in 2013, requires reaching material that is under a slab in the basement.

“If we do not get relief for a stepback, on the top floor, “We‘re not going anywhere with this building,” he said.

John Murphy, of Summit Real Estate Strategies, called the plan “completely different,”as retail space has doubled from the May proposal. “We would not have gotten to this point without Kin Lau,” he said, adding that relief is needed for the top story to make units more comfortable for tenants.

Board Chair Andrew Bunnell called the new plan “incredibly thorough …. This is not perfect, but I appreciate the work put in here.”

Commercial space still deemed insufficient

Board member Rachel Szembery said she was disappointed with the commercial space provided, saying it must be addressed before approval.

Member David Watson agreed with Szembery about what the board aims to accomplish with the mixed-use bylaw. He asked: “Is this a no-go if you don't get relief?” Murphy said that was correct.

Saying he is “struggling” to make this work, Watson asked about expanding the commercial space to accommodate a restaurant or food service.

Board member Gene Benson said there had been two restaurants there until recently and he thought it would be wise to make sure the retail and commercial space could accommodate another restaurant. That is a problem with the current proposal, he said, because it does not allow for venting from a restaurant kitchen.

Public comments

Eight members of the public spoke. Among them, Don Seltzer noted the need for a five-foot buffer for the 25 parking spots.

Aram Hollman said the project demonstrated an inappropriate use of mixed use, which he said is not intended to lead to wholesale conversions of business properties to residential.

Barbara Thornton asked to avoid “quibbling about a lot of details.” She said she'd like to see five or six stories. “Let's just make it happen,” she said.

Pam Hallett, Housing Corporation of Arlington executive director, favors the project and wondered whether it could rise to six floors.

Jo Anne Preston said she does not support having small commercial spaces.

The board voted, 5-0, to continue the hearing until Monday, July 20.

Thorndike, Whittemore

In other business, the board voted to update its 2016 letter expressing support of the town's opposition to Thorndike Place, the housing project on the Mugar site in East Arlington. The Zoning Board of Appeals was to hear the application for a comprehensive permit July 14, but that has been postponed to Aug. 11.

The presentation about Whittemore Park was continued to July 20.

May 19, 2020: Mass. Ave., hotel developers told to come back in July

May 3, 2020: Toraya closes as 22-apartment project planned for block
Jan. 30, 2020: Proposed Heights hotel-restaurant draws opposition
July 26, 2019: Hearing held for town's 2nd hotel proposed near Heights
March 11, 2015: Articles to regulate signs, sell DAV, support master plan supported

Nov. 26, 2014: Short-term tenancy for former DAV could lead to co-working

This news summary was published Monday, July 13, 2020, and updated to clarify a member's comment, as well as July 17, to add an agenda link.

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