WOBURN - More than happy to see a blighted industrial zone transformed into a more vivacious housing district with ample open-space, the City Council recently green-lighted the construction of a 56-unit condominium complex by Green and Prospect Streets.
During their latest virtual gathering, the aldermen voted unanimously to issue a special permit to 8-10 Green St. LLC to demolish and replace seven single-story warehouses with a new four-story housing complex with 113 parking spaces by the former Boston & Main Railroad line.
The tenor of the recent public hearing stood in sharp contrast to deliberations roughly a year earlier regarding the creation of a Railway Overlay District (ROD) to facilitate the redevelopment, which is being pitched by prominent local builder George Gately and Weston contractor Edward Hovsepian.
According to Ward 5 Alderman Darlene Mercer-Bruen, who counted herself as among those skeptical of the initial ROD legislation, her concerns about the project — which revolved around density and potential traffic impacts — appear unlikely to materialize under Gately and Hovsepian's present proposal.
Other council members, such as Ward 3 Alderman Jeffery Dillon, also praised the developers for being the first area landowners to envision a transformation of the ugly industrial zone into a vibrant neighborhood with close access to public transportation and shopping amenities by the edge of Woburn Çenter.
The ROD initiative, which allows a handful of landowners along the former railway to create multi-family housing on industrial lots with at least two acres of space, was originally sponsored by Dillon's predecessor, former Ward 3 Alderman Mark Gaffney.
"This is a blighted, contaminated site the petitioners will approve with housing that will produce more tax revenues and customers for area businesses," said Dillon, who district includes the Green Street parcel. "Some of my fellow councillors can remember when Woburn didn't have such a great reputation because of pollution. Any time I can be part of a cleaning up a contaminated site, you'll know where I stand."
"I expressed a lot of concern when this original rezoning came through, but I have to say, a lot of those [issues] went away," Mercer-Bruen later admitted.
Given the lack of public feedback regarding the housing plan — not a single citizen commented during the hearing — area abutters also have apparently changed their minds about the redevelopment since seeing the particulars of the 2.16-acre redevelopment plan.
According to local attorney Joseph Tarby, representing Gately and Hovsepian, his clients proposal will fully comply with the zoning standards of the ROD and generate roughly $200,000 in new annual tax revenues.
Under the site plan, an L-shaped building containing 31 single-bedroom units and 26 two-bedroom condominiums would be constructed towards the Green Street side of the parcel, which runs along the old railroad tracks and Prospect Street to the vicinity of Mount Pleasant Street.
At least eight of the home ownership units would be sold to buyers who meet the qualifications of the state's Chapter 40B or affordable housing statute.
With primary access to the complex from Green Street, a Z-shaped parking area would wrap around the building on two sides before branching out parallel to Prospect Street. In doing so, the two developers will be able to generously dot the site with permitter landscaping and a common courtyard with a patio and dog park.
"There's more than one-acre of open space on this parcel," said Tarby, who explained that roughly 41 percent of the site will be landscaped green space.
Traffic consultant Giles Ham later predicted the condominium use would have a negligible impact on nearby roadways.
"In terms of just standard traffic generation, 56 units will generate 304 daily trips over the course of a day. There will be 20 [morning peak hour] and 25 [evening commute] trips. That equates to roughly one vehicle every two-to-three minutes, so it's really not significant," said Ham.
In terms of mitigation, the developers have pledged a $10,000 contribution to use towards the purchase of special traffic management systems for the downtown area. The applicants will also set-up stop signs at each driveway, restrict access to a Prospect Street driveway to emergency vehicles only, and install bicycle racks and electric-vehicle charging stations at the complex.