WOBURN - A pair of Green Street landlords recently unveiled an official proposal to construct a 56-unit apartment building in the South End by the old Boston & Maine railroad tracks.
During a virtual meeting on Tuesday night, the City Council is expected to open a public hearing regarding a special permit request from 8-10 Green Street LLC, which about a year ago now first proposed replacing several rundown industrial buildings by Prospect Street and the Winchester line with a four-story housing complex.
Local developer George Gately Jr. is teaming up with Edward Hovsepian, of Weston-based EH Construction Company, to propose the redevelopment on a 2.16-acre parcel that stetches from Green Street towards the old railroad tracks.
With multiple land holdings in Woburn, Hovsepian is the former owner of the Strand Theatre block in Woburn Center, which became a municipal parking lot after the city purchased the parcel for $1.9 million in 2017. A Woburn resident with deep ties to the community, Gately is a well-known developer in the area.
Over the objections of area abutters and Woburn's Planning Board, the City Council in Dec. of 2019 established a special Railway Overlay District (ROD) around 8-10 Green Street and a handful of other abutting South End sites.
In a 6-to-3 vote, supporters of that legislation argued the special zoning regulations would foster the redevelopment of various rundown and contaminated industrial sites that are clustered around the abandoned Boston & Maine Railroad line.
According to local attorney Joseph Tarby, who represents the petitioners, his clients are seeking permission to construct a 49-foot tall apartment complex on the land. Under initial renderings of the redevelopment, the applicants had planned on providing at least 112 parking spaces for the housing units within a new parking area on the Prospect Street side of the site.
Previously, the Green Street parcel housed several ramshackle industrial warehouses and other rundown buildings, but it's unclear how many of those structures are still standing.
In May, months after the council okayed the ROD, a multiple-alarm fire ravaged an unspecified number of those old concrete and metal and wood-framed buildings. Before the blaze, the city assessor's office listed seven single-story warehouse buildings, all of which date back to 1969, as dotting the landscape around the 2.16-acre property.
A myriad of area abutters have criticized the ROD regs as far too lenient for an area that is also saturated with traditional single and two-family homes. Redevelopment abutters say their houses will be dwarfed by the proposed four-story apartment building, and they also worry about the impacts of new multi-family housing projects on difficult South End traffic patterns.
Those who support the ROD and the creation of new housing have argued that those who own properties clustered around the old railroad tracks will not take on the financial burden of cleaning up contaminated sites without some assurances that a redevelopment will become profitable.
Dating back to 1844, the old Boston & Maine Railroad tracks, which handled both freight and passenger trains, included several spurs that traveled into the Woburn Center and Horn Pond areas from Winchester. Trains also transported passengers heading towards Wilmington and Stoneham.
Portions of the line remained in use until sometime in the early 1980s, when the MBTA stopped commuter rail services that ran from Boston to Woburn Center.