Select Board Considers Woburn Street Building

Reading, MA — The Select Board participated in a formal discussion with representatives of G.C. Fodera Contracting regarding plans for a 40R mixed-use building on the site of 18 Woburn Street. The previous structure on the lot, located on the southerly side of Woburn Street, burned down in 2006, and the 4,172 square foot lot has remained empty since that time.

Render of 18 Woburn Street from Municipal Lot

Attorney Josh Latham, speaking for the developer, shared that the plans are to develop a building with 2,350 square feet of commercial space on the first floor, ideal for a restaurant, with four one-bedroom apartments on the second and three two-bedroom apartments on the third floor. There would be a parking garage for tenants in the basement of the building.

The Community Planning and Development Commission (CPDC) referred the issue to the Select Board because of the requirement for the garage to be accessed through the adjacent municipal parking lot, which is under the Select Board’s jurisdiction. Latham reported that the developer had adapted the plans to ensure that no parking spaces would be lost in the lot.

Both Town Manager Robert LeLacheur and Chair Karen Herrick expressed concern that the Select Board was being presented plans that the CPDC had not yet seen nor had had a chance to review. “It’s not fair to ask the board to weigh in when CPDC has not seen it,” LeLacheur commented. Herrick continued, “We get feedback from staff and feedback from CPDC, and we have none from either of these.” 

Select Board Chair Karen Herrick

Select Board member Mark Dockser expressed concern over where patrons of the new commercial space would park, especially during lunch hours. He continued his concern speaking about adding demand to “an already overstressed area.” Latham countered that bringing new business and residents to the downtown was always the goal of the 40R Smart Growth District. 

Community Development Director Julie Mercier suggested that plans for re-striping and redesigning the entire municipal parking lot are under consideration. “[The municipal lot] is still a moving target,” Mercier added. Dockser followed, stating that any decision needs to wait until after a study is done and plans for parking in the lot are completed.

CPDC will continue its public hearing on 18 Woburn Street on May 24.

LeLacheur reported that due to the governor lifting the state of emergency on June 15, he plans to ask the Board of Health to lift all restrictions on town buildings on the same date. LeLacheur continued, reminding the board that Town Hall may not be ready to open at that time due to a recent flood in the building. Residents will still be able to visit Town Hall by appointment.

Board member Carlo Bacci suggested that in-person meetings could be held in the Performing Arts Center at Reading Memorial High School. LeLacheur thought that logistics could be challenging, but the RMHS library or the community room at the Reading Public Library might be a better fit. Ideas regarding hybrid meetings were also discussed.

Laura Gemme, Town Clerk

Town Clerk Laura Gemme shared that once complete, census data will be reported in September, and precinct lines will need to be redrawn but that no new precincts will need to be added at this time. She did suggest that the next charter review include language allowing a new precinct as it is likely it will be required after the 2030 census. Gemme added that due to the revised precincts, all 192 members of town meeting would need to seek election in 2022.

The Select Board voted 4-0 to accept the classification and compensation schedule for town employees. It also voted 4-0 to add a stop sign at the end of Wakefield Street, where it intersects with Haverhill Street. The board received a quarterly financial update from Town Accountant Sharon Angstrom and an economic development update from Economic Development Director Erin Schaeffer.

The Select Board adjourned at 10:05 pm.

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