WOBURN - In a deal brokered with Cummings Properties, Edens LLC officials intend to create a new gated access-way behind the Woburn Mall site that will facilitate residential traffic flow onto Commerce Way from the future Woburn Village development.
During a recent meeting of the City Council in City Hall, the aldermen voted unanimously to allow Edens to proceed with the construction of the traffic relief valve, which will create a new connection between the rear of the mall property and an existing road that heads directly to Commerce Way.
Last June, Edens, which is headquartered in South Carolina but maintains Boston offices, obtained permission to demolish the indoor mall and construct a lofty lifestyle center containing 350 apartments, a movie theatre complex, and as many as 20 new retail stores.
According to city officials, the new accord to between the two neighbors will only improve that highly-anticipated redevelopment.
"This is exciting news. I was pushing for that opening from the beginning," said Ward 1 Alderman Joanne Campbell. "I really believe it will help that traffic flow and make sure [vehicles] aren't backing up [by the entrance] where people are coming into Market Basket."
Under the special permit change, which per the recent council vote has been deemed a "minor modification", tenants residing within a new 350-unit apartment complex by the northwest corner of the Woburn Village redevelopment will be granted access to a private roadway that runs behind the mall complex to Commerce Way.
In exchange, Cummings Properties' tenants at 10 and 18 Commerce Way, who work in two buildings situated towards the rear of an extensive industrial park that abuts the mall property, will obtain usage rights to newly proposed access road by the future apartments.
According to Burlington attorney Mark Vaughan, representing Edens at the recent meeting, the deal will mutually benefit both East Woburn landlords. As he explained, Cummings Properties tenants heading towards 10 and 18 Commerce Way can avoid morning rush-hour traffic by Mishawum Road and Commerce Way by cutting through the new Woburn Village site.
Likewise, new Avalon Bay apartment tenants, instead of being forced to traverse those same peak hour choke points, can take a more direct route from the Woburn Village parcel to Commerce Way through the rear access road to the industrial park. From that turnout, the residents can head directly towards I-95 southbound and northbound Commerce Way connections to I-93 and the commuter rail station at Anderson Regional Transportation Center.
"As part of the discussions, we've reached agreement to provide this gated access, which would be along the common property line between the Woburn Village development and Cummings Properties to the rear," Vaughan explained. "It would be a relief outlet to allow a portion of that residential traffic to avoid the Commerce Way and Mishawum Road signalized intersection."
Last June, when the City Council issued a special permit for the transformative redevelopment of the 23-acre parcel at 300 Mishawum Rd., the aldermen rejected a request to let apartment residents enter-and-exit the site by Commerce Way through a rear trucking road that runs directly behind the existing mall complex.
However, unlike the present compromise, that gated-access would have created a situation where apartment tenants were sharing that rear Woburn Mall connection with tractor-trailers traveling to and from loading docks for a new strip mall that will house Market Basket, DSW Shoe, Homesense, and TJ Maxx and Homegoods.
Ultimately, critics of that proposal, such as Ward 5 Alderman Darlene Mercer-Bruen, voiced concerns about how to control access and turning movements for the combination of apartment residents and loading dock traffic.
Bolstering those claims, city traffic consultant Robert Nagi, of engineering firm VHB, told the council the cut-through could backfire, should insufficient signage and road striping be provided. In light of that feedback, the council refused the last-minute modification — which had been discussed on various occasions since February.
At the most recent meeting, Mercer-Bruen, noting VHB's endorsement of the newest compromise, told her peers she had no issues with the alternative solution.
"For the record, I want to clarify that we did receive a communication from VHB. They also view this as a minor modification and support it as an important safety feature," said the Ward 5 alderman.