CPDC Approves Chute Street Development

Reading, MA — After seven hearings and by a vote of 5-0, the Community Planning and Development Commission (CPDC) approved the 40R development plan for 6-16 Chute Street, to be known as 45 High Street. The current building on the 17,986 square-foot site, built in 1974, is a one-story commercial building that houses several businesses, including the Last Corner Restaurant, The Green Tomato, and a laundromat.

The proposed building will create two commercial spaces on the first floor facing High Street with 3,622 square feet of retail space and an enclosed first-floor parking garage to be used by residents. The garage will be accessed via a Chute Street entrance which will contain thirty-nine spaces, twenty-eight percent of which will be compact spaces. Project Architect Jeffrey Olinger explained that the upper three floors would house twenty-nine apartments. Eight of these will now be designated as “affordable,” up from seven at the last hearing. The addition of the one affordable unit brings the percentage of affordable units to twenty-seven percent, which is above the twenty-five percent needed for the town to designate all the apartments as part of the town’s affordable inventory.

Speaking for the applicant, Attorney Brad Latham praised the proposal, reminding the commission that the development fits exactly into what the town was thinking when it created the 40R district. “[The building] could not be closer to public transportation if it were on the tracks,” Latham commented.

CPDC approved four waivers for the project: an off-street loading waiver, a parking dimensions waiver, and a garage drive aisle width waiver all were approved with votes of 5-0. A density waiver was approved by a vote of 4-1, with CPDC Associate member Tony D’Arezzo as the dissenting vote. The building will have a density of seventy units per acre.

CPDC continued the meeting by  opening the second hearing to discuss a proposed 40R development at 459 Main Street, currently the site of 128 Tire. The 21,864 square foot proposed building would house 1,471 square feet of retail space on the first floor with four one-bedroom units, seven two-bedroom units, and one three-bedroom unit on the upper three floors. There will be a nineteen space parking garage on the first level. 

The upper floors are set back from the adjacent split 40R residential property to the east by fifteen feet and are set back from the adjoining property line to the north, the new Rise 475 building, by three and a half feet. Attorney Jesse Schomer also noted that the street-facing facade would continue around to the rear of the building, so those traveling up Washington Street will not just see a blank wall. “We want to ensure we have a beautiful building that plays well with its neighbors,” Project Architect Jeffrey Olinger declared.

Olinger went into further detail, describing changes made to the forty-five-foot tall proposed building since the last hearing. The garage will now have one-way access from Main Street and an exit-only onto Washington Street. According to traffic engineer Samuel Gregorio, this will cause exiting cars to queue within the garage and not onto the street, easing traffic concerns. The commercial space has been reduced in size by almost 200 square feet and modified “to make it stand out more.” The adjacent sidewalk will be wider and allow for outdoor dining or other retail usage.

Schomer indicated that redesignating one of the one-bedroom units as an “affordable” unit in the project would bring its return on total cost to only 1.8%, which is well below the state-recognized return on the total cost of 6.64% needed for a project to be considered “economical.” This analysis was provided at the request of CPDC member Nick Safina.

CPDC member Heather Clish expressed concern about the thirteen-foot high wall of the building that is directly on the abutting residential property line. “I want something suitable for residents living right there,” Clish stated. Safina suggested that the wall could be lowered, possibly to nine feet, as parking is on the other side of the wall and could be tapered up to full height as it reaches the interior drive lane. Abutters Bruce and Lisa Johnson echoed the concern regarding the height of the wall along with concerns regarding the sightlines exiting their driveway.

CPDC continued the public hearing to April 11 at 9:00 pm.

By a 5-0 vote, CPDC also approved a certificate of appropriateness for a new sign for a second business on the Latham Law office building at 643 Main Street as well voting 5-0 to allow the Planning Department to grant administrative approval for a historical marker to be placed on the same site commemorating General Lafayette’s visit to Reading in 1825. 

By a vote of 4-0-1, CPDC approved a certificate of appropriateness for an awning sign for The Style Lounge at 175 Haven Street and also voted 5-0 to endorse an approval not required plan for 16 Sunnyside Avenue.

CPDC adjourned at 12:05 am.

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