Chelmsford apartments expansion wins OK
CHELMSFORD — The Planning Board has approved a major modification that will add a fourth floor of units to a downtown housing development.
The board approved the special permit modification for the Grist Mill Apartments in a 5-2 vote. The approval will increase the units from 54 to 70 at the market-rate rental development.
WE Acquisitions LLC, connected to Concord-based Winstanley Enterprises, was granted a special permit last summer to construct a three-floor, 54-unit apartment development off Cushing Place. When Winstanley Enterprises found the numbers weren’t working, it partnered with Princeton Enterprises to reorganize the construction more efficiently. That included eliminating larger units in favor of more one- and two-bedroom units, lowering floor-to-floor heights, slightly reducing the overall footprint of the building and replacing a peaked roof with a mansard roof to conceal an additional floor of units.
Community Development Director Evan Belansky said the developers recently met with the Historical Commission and agreed to some aesthetic changes including enhancements to cornice profile and moulding, window casings and shed dormers in order to bring the $16 million new construction in line with more traditional architecture in town.
“So we already have an approved version of this building that is basically modern contemporary urban architecture in the center of town, and the proposal that’s in front of us is a building that is visually no larger, has been modified to be consistent with our in-town architecture,” said board member Nancy Araway, who voted in favor of the modification.
“We’re making a significant effort to try to stick to the traditional details,” said architect Mark Pelletier of Maugel Architects.
“It’s just a huge effort that you’ve made,” Araway said.
Board member Monica Gregoire, who voted against the modification, said she appreciated the efforts to add more historic elements but she still had a problem with the scale of the property in relation to nearby buildings. Adding the extra floor “makes it even more pronounced,” she said.
“I appreciate the accessories, but I feel like we’re putting earrings on an elephant in the middle of the historic area,” Gregoire said.
One of the conditions of the special permit requires the developers to come back to the Planning Board one year after occupancy to review site circulation and traffic impacts. The developers also agreed to include infrastructure for a gate to restrict on-site traffic flow that could be added later if necessary.
Proposed compact parking spaces were removed from the design, which still has a total of 138 parking spaces, including 60 under the building. All of the parking spots along the bike path will be for public use.
The developers will pay $360,000 in lieu of affordable units. The project is expected to bring more than $250,000 a year in new revenue to the town and more than $1 million of other public benefits, including a brook walk, pocket park, bike trail and other improvements.
In other business, the Planning Board deemed two proposed multi-family developments on Turnpike Road were applicable under the Community Enhancement and Investment Overlay District. The projects are the first proposed under the new Route 129 Business Amenity Overlay District.
At 104 Turnpike Road, Kinloch Investments LLC proposes a 168-unit rental development that would include affordable housing units. The plan initially called for six three-story buildings, but the developer has amended it to five buildings of varying heights and added more open space following the board’s initial feedback, Belansky said. The revised plan includes one two-story building closest to Turnpike Road, two three-story buildings and two four-story buildings, getting taller as they go further back on the property, he said.
At 152 Turnpike Road, EJH Inc. initially proposed a 10-unit condominium development, split between two buildings. The layout of the design was changed and reduced to nine units, which the board found more favorable, Belansky said.
The developers of these projects must now go through the full special permit process, he said.
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