Kraft site off Montvale Avenue in East Woburn

Proposed design of new development at Kraft site off Montvale Avenue in East Woburn

WOBURN - Two housing developers recently stepped forward to construct elderly housing and various other multi-family residences at the former Atlantic Gelatin site in East Woburn, where Boston-based Leggat McCall in 2018 received a preliminary okay for a massive plug-and-play development plan.

Tonight, the City Council is expected to catch their first official glimpse of the petitions, the first of which comes from Westborough-based Pulte Homes of New England. Under the proposal, the national home builder is seeking permission to construct 95 townhouses and 122 garden-style apartments on the 60-acre site by Montvale Avenue and I-93.

A second recently introduced petition comes from Iowa-based LCS Woburn, which is seeking permission to erect both a 103-unit congregate elderly housing complex and a 103-unit assisted living and memory care center at the former industrial site.

Tonight's regularly scheduled council meeting will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., citizens interested in watching or participating in the various public hearings can do so by connecting via an Internet connection through video-conferencing service Zoom.

Direct links to the Zoom meeting, as well as a password for the council meeting, can be obtained by logging onto the City of Woburn website and clicking on the council agenda that was posted under the "calendar" section.

The public can also connect by telephone by dialing 1-646-558-8656. Phone users will then be promoted to enter a meeting ID (822-0744-1688) and a password (623239).

Normally, when the council sees first petitions for the first time, the city officials schedule public hearings for the special permit requests without debate or comment.

On rare occasions, such as when a matter of considerable public interest is raised, the aldermen will briefly discuss a tentative timetable for addressing the matters to ensure citizens can stay involved. Previously described as the largest private development ever proposed within the City of Woburn, the proposed Kraft Foods project, being dubbed "The Vale" by landlord Leggat McCall, is virtually guaranteed to generate significant public input.

Back in 2018, after a months-long planning process, the City Council incorporated the 60-acre industrial site into a new Technology and Business Use Overlay District (TBOD) that was tailored for the sole purpose of shaping future development activity of the former Kraft-Heinz Company site.

Leggat McCall Properties, one of Boston's biggest commercial real-estate managers, has already garnered the City Council's preliminary endorsement of a development concept plan in which 1.8 million square feet of premium office space, retail storefronts, and housing would be erected on the land.

The City Council still has to issue special permits for most components within that larger redevelopment, which could potentially include:

• Nearly 880,000 square feet of Class A office and research and development (R&D) space;

• Retail storefronts containing a total of 83,200 square feet;

• A 79,200 square foot hotel with 135 guest rooms;

• A 300-unit apartment complex, comprising a total of 447,500 square feet;

• A 100-unit senior housing building;

• A 105-unit assisted living/Alzheimer's care facility;

• 75 townhomes;

• 125 multi-family housing units;

• and a parking garage structure containing a total of 2,865 spaces.

Since introducing that initial concept plan, which under TBOD rules must be submitted before any property can be included in the special overlay district, Legatt McCall has obtained permission from the Mass. Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) to apply for a slew of state permits needed to facilitate the project.

A subsidiary of Fortune 500 firm Pulte Group Inc., Pulte Homes has apparently been selected by the Atlantic Gelatin site to construct and manage proposed market rate housing complexes at The Vale. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Pulte Homes, the nation's third largest home builder, is seeking a special permit to space out 95 proposed townhouses in a myriad of two-and-three unit buildings.

Representatives from the company's Westborough-based office also want to construct three multi-story apartment buildings, including one 50-unit structure and a pair of 36-unit complexes.

With a similar reputation in the senior housing industry, LCS is Legatt McCall's top choice for managing a 103-unit congregate elderly housing complex. The Iowa firm also wants to construct an extended-care facility containing 84-beds and a separate Alzheimer's and memory care building with 36-units.

The City Council last discussed The Vale project back in the fall of 2019, when Mayor Scott Galvin and the developer forwarded a proposed mitigation pact and development impact agreement for the project.

According to filings submitted to the EOEEA in 2019, The Vale project when fully built out will generate a whopping 16,688 new weekday vehicular trips, the majority of which of which will access the site via I-93 and Montvale Avenue.

To ensure the roadway network can handle such a staggering increase in traffic volume, Legat McCall has proposed the eventual expansion of Hill Street by McDonald's Restaurant and the Kraft Foods site entrance into a five lane roadway.

The construction of an onsite rotary is also being proposed to process vehicles heading to various mixed-use development components within the former Kraft Foods site. The developer has also committed to the implementation of a multi-phased roadway improvement plan that will include the realignment of Montvale Avenue, the addition of new turning lanes onto I-93, and the installation of high-tech "adaptive" traffic signals.

Proposed improvements that are likely to be of interest to area residents include the following:

• Adaptive traffic signal upgrades of all three signalized intersections at Montvale Avenue/HIll Street/I-93 south off ramps, the Montvale Avenue/I-93 northbound ramps, and Montvale Avenue/Maple Street/Unicorn Park Drive;

• The construction of a rotary by the site entrance to improve traffic flow from Hill Street by Montvale Avenue;

• The full reconstruction of Montvale Avenue by I-93 southbound's off-ramps and Hill Street, which will include the addition of two turning lanes into the site for those heading westbound from Montvale Avenue;

• The widening of Hill Street to include five lanes (two for entering vehicles and three for exiting cars);

• The widening of the I-93 southbound ramp to include an extra traffic lane;

• The widening of Montvale Avenue by the I-93 overpass to provide for six traffic lanes (three in each direction);

• The addition of new turning lanes on Montvale Avenue's eastbound approach.

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