The former China Pearl

The former China Pearl is shown off Mishawum Road next to the Woburn Village. A daycare facility is being proposed for the site.

WOBURN - Though seeing some promise in the redevelopment, the City Council will closely consider traffic projections associated with a proposed 200-child daycare center conversion of the old China Pearl restaurant off Mishawum Road.  

During their latest gathering in City Hall, the elected officials voted unanimously to retain their own peer traffic consultant to review the daycare proposal being floated for the 1.8-acre parcel at 288 Mishawum Rd., which is situated right next to the Woburn Village site.  

The council, continuing the public hearing until June 3, also referred the petition to the Special Permits Committee for further review.  A special permit is needed because the restaurant building, which according to city records contains just shy of 12,850 square feet of space, sits on a pre-existing, non-conforming lot that lacks adequate front and side setbacks.   

“This is currently in its infancy.  There’s a lot of things that need to be worked out. [But] I am glad to see something happening with that building.  People have been asking me for many years about when something will happen at that site,” said Ward 5 Councilor Darlene Mercer-Bruen, whose district includes the busy stretch of the Mishawum Road corridor by I-95 and Commerce Way.

“You have problems with just about every aspect of this building and it’s been there for a long time.  Those problems have to be addressed,” later commented Ward 2’s Richard Gately, referring to water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure - or lack thereof - by the old eatery.   

Under the state’s so-called Dover Amendment, religious establishments and educational institutions are generally considered exempt from local zoning bylaws - meaning they are technically allowed in any location.  

As such, cities and towns are generally limited in how much control they can exercise over such facilities, though court judges have generally recognized local officials rights to impose reasonable regulations related to public health and safety.  

According to local attorney Joseph Tarby and Patrick Connolly, an engineering consultant from Woburn-based Beals Associates, the redevelopment will entail major interior renovations to include a total of 17 separate infant, toddler, and preschool, toddler instruction areas with space to house up to 200 children and 30 adult employees.  

Outside renovations include the removal of the fancy pagoda roofing that mimicked traditional Chinese architecture and the demolition of an exterior overhang in the rear parking area.  

With a 9,555 square foot play area also planned for the space behind the building, the existing parking lot will be reconfigured to include 39-parking spaces.  

“All the water there today just pools and spills over into the adjacent [Aberjona River/Aberjona Pond] wetlands.  We’re proposing to regrade the parking lot, so that water flows into a catch basin and into an infiltrator underneath the playground,” Connolly further explained.  

Lastly, in a major redevelopment element being praised by Mercer-Bruen and other council members, the landlord is also reportedly willing to create a new two-way access road into the neighboring Woburn Village site and allow use of the parking lot when the daycare is closed on nights and weekends.  

City officials and Woburn Village operator Edens LLC have been trying to identity a way to deal with parking issues being experienced at the neighboring lifestyle center. 

“The great thing about a daycare use there is that its complimentary to the surrounding uses.  The peak demands [for parking] are not the same as Woburn Village [so they can use our parking on nights and weekends without any conflict],” said Connolly.  

In what is likely to be the main sticking point over the special permit request, the daycare provider - which wasn’t identified by name during the initial presentation - is reportedly claiming that no more than 6-to-8 parents will be dropping off children at any time during the morning and evening hours.  

With a third-party traffic consultant working to verify those claims and further prove the use will not seriously impede already difficult traffic patterns in the area, Mercer-Bruen and Ward 4 Councilor Joseph Demers argued the city needed to hire its own expert to analyze that forthcoming study.  

“I support Councilor Mercer-Bruen’s request for a peer traffic view, because I don’t think we’ve every seen a traffic study come in that didn’t support an applicant’s proposal,” said Demers.  

“If we have 200 children at this site, I find it hard to believe that during a two-hour drop off window, there are only six-to-eight cars coming to this site at once.  If that is true, I suggest every public school get a copy of that [site circulation plan],” he added.    


(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.