© The Stoneham Independent

STONEHAM, MA – The Select Board this week sanctioned a Wilmington builder’s proposal to redevelop the old Stoneham Lodge of Elks building into a mixed-use apartment complex.

In a unanimous vote during a regularly scheduled meeting in Town Hall on Tuesday night, the Select Board gave a site plan approval to Armor Development’s plans to demolish the old Lodge of Elks banquet hall at 471 Main St. by Hancock Street.

According to local attorney Charles Houghton, representing Armor Development principal James Castellano, his client intends to replace the old social club, which contains roughly 5,100 square feet, with a new four-story building.

A total of 10 residential units, each with two-bedrooms and two-bathrooms, are planned for the site.  Parking for the redevelopment will be situated in an existing lot, long used by former Lodge of Elks Club members, off of Linden Street.

The ground-floor of the new structure, which will contain one apartment and two professional office spaces, will be topped by three floors of apartments.

“The proposal would be to replace that building,” said Houghton of the two-story function hall, which dates back to 1910 sits next to the Royal Roast Beef property.  “It’s useful life has expired and you really can’t renovate that in any practical manner.”

“By coming up Linden Street [to the 28-space parking lot], we thought we’d keep traffic to a minimum.  We always thought keeping the building up front [on Main Street] and the parking in the rear would work best for the neighborhood,” the local attorney added.

In the spring of 2017, members of Stoneham's fraternal organization approached Woburn's Lodge of Elks, headquartered on Washington Street by Salem Street, to seek a merger of both clubs.  Three months later, the Woburn Elks decided to dispose of the function hall.

The Main Street parcel, situated within walking distance of Stoneham Square and its various shops and restaurants, subsequently sat on the market for some time.

However, last spring, after Castellano expressed interest in acquiring the parcel and the adjoining Linden Street parking lot, Houghton submitted a warrant article seeking to rezone the parking lot as part of the Central Business development.  From the outset of those rezoning talks, the Wilmington developer made clear his intent to replace the old banquet hall with a new building containing ground-level commercial space and upper-level dwelling units.

Town Meeting subsequently agreed to the request, which resulted in Armor Development’s subsequent purchase of the .41-acre Elks property in June of 2018 for $950,000.

Speaking during this Tuesday’s public hearing on the redevelopment, Fairview Road resident Joan Lemire questioned whether the project should include retail space, instead of new offices for professionals.  According to the local resident, she believed the addition of retail spaces made more sense for the neighborhood, given its proximity to Stoneham Square.

“I feel like we should be encouraging retail along Main Street.  This doesn’t look like a retail building.  If it had more windows along the front, it would have that potential,” said Lemire, referring to the two-toned red brick and grayish-blue panel design.

Castellano, who intends to locate his real-estate business in the new building, later argued the design of the building would be cheapened by catering to retail clients.  Though he didn’t rule out the possibility of renting the second ground-floor commercial suite to a retail establishment, he further pointed out that the parcel lacks sufficient parking for such uses.

Generally, the Select Board members welcomed the plans, which will create a new premier development towards the edges of the central business district.

According to Select Board Chairman Shelly MacNeill, though recent Stoneham Square area projects have included ground-floor retail spaces , the professional offices make more sense in light of the site’s proximity to a residential neighborhood.

Board members Caroline Colarusso and George Seibold agreed, saying the development will do much to improve the aesthetics of the entire area.

“I think office space is needed, and it will really fit.  The area is kind of run-down and this is so appealing to the eye,” Colarusso commented.

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