WOBURN — Burlington medical service provider Lahey Health Systems intends to expand into a Presidential Way office building space previously utilized by a trade school.
During a recent gathering in City Hall, local attorney James Mawn outlined a special permit request to construct a 273-space parking field towards the rear of 8 Presidential Way, an approximate 14-acre parcel located within close proximity to I-93 and the Wilmington line.
The new parking area is being added at the request of Lahey Health, an existing tenant within a two-story building on the grounds that contains 104,000 square feet of space. Housing a large information technology (IT) branch at the Presidential Way site, the medical care provider has reached an agreement with landowner Presidential Ventures LLC to take over the entirety of the building.
The Burlington tenant, which already occupies roughly 75,000 square feet of space within the building, intends to expand into the area previously leased by Connecticut-based Porter and Chester Institute Inc. The trade school shuttered its Woburn campus back in October of 2017.
"They'll use the facility to house their IT department. As part of the improvements Lahey would make to the building, they've asked the landowner to expand the parking facilities," Mawn explained. "The petition before you tonight seeks to do just that. There's ample space to provide the enlarged parking, and it will comply with every aspect of zoning ordinances."
Ultimately, the City Council continued the public hearing on the special permit petition until its Nov. 20 meeting, while the matter was also referred to the Special Permits Committee.
During the introductory public hearing, Mawn made no reference to any offsite traffic improvements being planned as a result of the parking field enlargement, which would presumably result in a sizable jump in vehicle trips to and from the site.
However, when Ward 2 Alderman Richard Gately suggested traffic impacts should be scrutinized, the attorney contended site access into and out of the site, which includes a pair of two-way driveways, is more than sufficient to process any increase.
"This is a massive site for this type of building," said the Presidential Ventures representative.
Generally, the aldermen launched no major objections to the proposal. However, the city officials did express some suspicion about the sheer size of the new parking lot, which will result in nearly double the parking capacity around the office building.
"That seems like a giant number of parking spaces to add. I don't necessarily take exception to it. Maybe that's just what the [tenant's] parking demand is," said City Council President Richard Haggerty.
"It's twice the required amount. Lahey is using it for IT, and that is a fairly dense usage," Mawn responded. "In some of their other spaces, they have limited parking and that has been a problem for them."
With the plans calling for the availability of more than 600 on-site parking stalls, Ward 2 Alderman Richard Gately later questioned whether the proposal was the first stage of a larger expansion.
Though not ruling out that possibility in the years ahead, Mawn assured the South End official that the landlord has no present plans to build additional office space on the 13.69-acre site. He also pointed out that back in 2008, the previous site owner had obtained permission from the council to tack a 60,000 square foot addition onto the 2-story structure.
The project never went ahead as planned.
Along similar lines, Alderman at-large Michael Concannon inquired as to whether any talks with Lahey Health have centered upon a satellite parking arrangement. Noting that Planning Director Tina Cassidy had expressed concern about that possibility in a memo to the council, Concannon advocated for adding a special permit condition that prohibited the parking area from being used by other offsite staff members.
"We're fine with limiting it to this site," Mawn said. "The intent is the parking would be used to service this building and this building only."
Dishing out $13.25 million for the acquisition, Presidential Ventures purchased the Presidential Way property, situated in the city's sole IP-2 zoning district, about a month before the trade school lease ended.
A practicing attorney, Mawn is the president and CEO of Woburn-based bank Northern Bank. Mawn is also listed as the registered agent of Presidential Ventures, which according to corporate records, maintains an office within Northern Bank's Mishawum Road headquarters.
Besides being tied to the real-estate investment firm, he is also an officer for 8 Presidential Way's management company, PV Management Inc., which is charged with negotiating leases with tenants. PV Management also maintains an office at Northern Bank.