WOBURN - Local developer Scott Seaver again obtained permission to reconfigure the upper levels of a Four Corners area office building off of Russell Street into residential apartments.
During a recent meeting in City Hall, the City Council unanimously approved a proposal from Seco Properties to perform interior renovations on the second and third floors of the nondescript masonry structure at 57 Russell St., where four new apartments will be created.
The approximate half-acre property, situated just past Old Cambridge Road and across from street from the Four Corners' Citizens Bank branch, sits within a business highway (BH) zoning district.
According to local attorney Joseph Tarby, representing Seaver, his client received a special permit in 2012 for a nearly identical redevelopment.
The local lawyer further explained that the Lexington Street developer had completed many of the exterior parking lot and utility connection improvements required for that project to move forward, but for reasons unexplained the redevelopment work was halted.
Seaver, experiencing difficulty in finding tenants for the commercial suites, now wishes to finish the conversion, which will result in a pair of two-bedroom apartments, each with a 760 square feet of living area, being created on the second and third floors.
The building's ground floor would continue to be utilized by commercial tenants.
"As with the last time, the petitioner would like to convert the second and third floor office spaces into residential units," the Murtha Cullina lawyer told the aldermen. "The petitioner has owned the property for 25 years, and at the current time, there's no market for office space in the Four Corners."
During the council's deliberations, much of the conversation centered around clarifying the scope of the construction project, as planning department officials were apparently unsure as to whether exterior work needed to be done.
In a late May memo to the city officials, City Planner Daniel Orr pointed out that the Russell Street parcel sits within both a local groundwater protection district and flood zone, which requires a determination as to whether the redevelopment will effect those conditions.
He also cited confusion about the proposal's parking configurations, as references were being made to existing lot spaces for apartments. Along similar lines, planning staff also sought information about the delivery of utilities to the new residential units.
"[The petitioner's application paperwork] states there are 16 existing parking spaces on the site for residential purposes, despite the fact that there are no residential units on the site. Is the petitioner proposing to convert and reserve 16 commercial spaces for the four residential units? [I]f so, is he certain none will be needed for the [remaining] retail use?" asked Orr.
According to Tarby, because his project had already been started and then abandoned in a state of limbo, Seaver technically has already completed the reconfiguration of the parking area and completed the necessary utility work. For those reasons, his client's application does not include the normally provided description of exterior construction activity.
"It's all interior renovations," explained Tarby.
"When I redid the parking lot years ago, I went through the Conservation Commission and everything was built," later elaborated Seaver. "The parking lot has been complete [for years now] and it functions properly."
The council, satisfied with that explanation, did add a condition requiring the developer to resubmit snow removal and handicapped parking plans to the appropriate City Hall officials. The aldermen also stipulated that the special permit was contingent upon the DPW's review of the water metering connections for the apartments.