WOBURN - Ward 2 Alderman Richard Gately last night voiced several reservations about a proposed mixed-use redevelopment of the former Woburn Printing building off Everett Street.
During a regular City Hall meeting on Tuesday night, local attorney Mark Salvati, representing 25 Everett Street Realty Trust, explained the 2.5-story building by the edge of Woburn Center has been acquired by several area contractors who work at Stella Construction.
Since purchasing the small lot, which contains the 3,300 square foot building and a linear four-space driveway, the new owners have made plans to convert the space into an office building with an apartment on the top floor.
Due to concerns about parking and the condition of the old printing building, the City Council voted unanimously to refer the request to the Special Permits Committee. The full council is expected to next resume the public hearing on the Woburn Printing shop redevelopment in late March.
In order to make room for the proposed dwelling unit, which will contain a total of 900 square feet, the new owners need to reconfigure the roof of the former printing shop. By jacking the roof up higher, the top floor of the building will be expanded by some 600 square feet.
Though the mixed-use redevelopment is allowed in the underlying business downtown (BD) zoning district, Salvati explained the council needs to authorize the residential renovations due to the non-conforming status of the building, which was erected in 1974.
"The property has ben used by a printing company for 40 years, and my client recently purchased it and coverted it by-right into office space," the local lawyer explained. "It's a pre-existing, non-conforming lot that requires 50-feet of frontage, with 40-feet provided. That's the only non-conformity."
Set back a fair walk from Main Street and Woburn Center proper, the Everett Street property is oriented in the midst of a largely residential neighborhood that nonetheless sits within close proximity to public parking spaces in the Walnut Street lot.
For similar mixed-use redevelopments in the downtown area, builders have recently relied upon some of those municipal spots for new residential apartments. Such an arrangement is allowed with the payment of a $4,500-per unit use fee and the City Council authorization.
However, according to Salvati, because his clients already has access to a personal driveway, they had planned to use those four parking spaces for the entire project. Though the lawyer conceded some visitors to the building's office spaces may need to park offsite, the lawyer claimed such an arrangement is allowed by-right.
"We understand the concern for parking there, but we're proposing the residential be onsite," he said.
Referencing concerns cited by Planning Director Tina Cassidy, Ward 2 Alderman Richard Gately challenged that parking concept as illogical. In his view, the linear orientation of the driveway almost guaranteed that arrangement would create conflicts between the building's residential and commercial users, especially when construction workers were trying to load or unload tools and materials.
Gately also pointed out that the property currently lacks space for a dumpster, a required trash receptacle which would presumably take up at least one of the parking spaces being relied upon for the petitioner's parking calculations.
"You don't have any parking down there. How many people actually work in the commercial side of it?" asked the South End official. "You're proposing to not only park two trucks there, but also squeeze in a residential [space]? That ain't going to work, and you know it's not going to work."
Gately also asked a series of questions about the existing condition of the building, which he believes will require a significant investment in order to be brought back up to code. Suggesting the installation of a sprinkler system and plumbing system renovations would be required at a minimum, the Ward 2 alderman cautioned he was extremely skeptical about the proposal.
"You'd be better off putting a dozer on the end of that building and driving it to the ground," he said. "I'm not buying into this renovation, and I'm certainly not buying into the residential [request]. I think that building is about to fall down."
According to ownership group representative Joseph Malieswski, he and his partners were willing to make the any building or ulility system improvements to property that are required by the building department. Salvati later expressed a willingness to compromise with the parking arrangements, even if that required modifying the proposal to include the use of the Walnut Street lot.
The proposal was also supported by two audience members, including a direct abutter.