25 Haven Street
Reading, MA — The Community Planning and Development Commission (CPDC) opened a public hearing on Monday to consider a proposed new mixed-use 40R development at 25 Haven Street. The property currently has a single-story building that previously contained a Rite-Aid Pharmacy and has been vacant since 2018. The building on the site is considered historic as it once housed the Reading Municipal Light Department and, according to Historical Commission chair Samantha Couture “is the only ‘art deco’ style building in town.”
The developer, Walderi Lima, proposes a four-story mixed-use building with two retail spaces and parking on the first floor and owner-occupied residential units on the top three floors. A total of twenty-five residential units are proposed for a density of 58.1 per acre. The residential units would be a mixture of one and two-bedroom apartments. Five of the proposed residential units would be considered affordable.
Both retail spaces are proposed to face Haven Street and be separated by a recessed residential entrance to the building. According to project architect Donnie Garrity, this would create a “barbell effect” on the Haven Street facade. The first retail space would be 1,485 square feet and have an adjacent 500 square foot outdoor patio area. The plan calls for the second retail space to be 1,218 square feet. Garrity indicated that the developer intends to preserve the historic facade of the current building and to use it as an inspiration for the exterior of the first floor on the entire building.
The proposed plan calls for thirty-two parking spaces in the enclosed first-floor garage with both an entrance and an exit on Green Street. The curb cut currently on Haven Street would be closed, and two additional on-street parking spaces would be added. Garrity also pointed out that the massing of the building is towards Haven Street and towards the depot and that there are stepbacks on the second and fourth floors, which limit the impact on the adjacent single-family residential building. The developer is requesting waivers for density, parking maneuverability, and an exterior loading zone. Attorney Josh Latham, speaking for the developer, pointed out that the development is just over 100 feet from the depot. “This is a project that meets the spirit and intent of the bylaw and the 40R district,” Latham declared.
CPDC member Nick Safina pointed out several issues with the plan. He inferred that the plans were “hastily prepared” with several typographical errors and mislabeled spaces. “That is not appreciated,” Safina scolded. He continued, presuming that the intent was to get the project application filed before new zoning bylaws for the 40R smart growth district begin to take effect. Safina shared that after examining the site’s current building, he doubts the historic facade could be saved.
“What will you do if you cannot save it?” Safina queried.
Safina also expressed concern that the second retail space was not functional given its size and shape. “It has no storage,” Safina continued. He also expressed dismay at the use of large panels for the exterior of the upper floors of the building.
CPDC chair Pamela Adrian pointed out that Green Street is a one-way street meaning that vehicles would have to maneuver around the neighborhood to enter the building. CPDC member John Weston echoed this concern. One abutting resident even suggested that Green Street could be closed at its western end, allowing two-way traffic into the garage. Member Heather Clish suggested that a walking path on the eastern edge of the property could be a great way to connect pedestrians from Green Street to Haven Street and could be developed into a nice public space with benches and trees. This idea was endorsed by resident David Talbot, who pressed for the CPDC to make it a condition for approval.
CPDC continued the public hearing to 7:45 on July 11.
459 Main Street
CPDC next reopened the public hearing for 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.
Attorney Jesse Schomer, speaking for applicant G.C. Fodera Contracting, described what he referred to as “significant revisions” to the project, including eliminating the rear-facing garage on the east side of the building that abuts a residential property. This would be replaced with fenced-off outdoor parking. The first-floor garage has been rearranged with fewer compact spaces. Each remaining compact space is now proposed to be six inches wider than before. This has also allowed room for a twentieth space in the garage, which would be set aside for retail usage. There are now 1.42 spaces per unit for residential parking with a unit density of forty-eight units per acre.
Schomer also provided a construction management plan, a snow management plan, a traffic memo, and a shadow study for the building.
Weston referred to the provided traffic memo as “disappointing” as it provided no documentation for its assumptions regarding the directionality of traffic leaving the building, stating this as “an important number.” Weston also expressed frustration that the memo indicated that it is the town’s responsibility to “fix” the intersection for the developer. Weston suggested that a peer review of the traffic impact information would be needed for the CPDC to make an informed decision on the proposed project.
CPDC member Catrina Meyer followed this up, requesting information regarding how the queuing for this intersection on Washington Street works now and what the impact of this proposed development would be on that queuing. Schomer indicated that the developer would not oppose a peer review of the traffic study.
Weston also expressed concerns about the construction management plan’s lack of specificity regarding street usage during construction. “My concern is can you do this work without impact on Route 28,” Weston asked.
The residential abutter also complained about the impact that shadows from the building would have on his property and reminded the CPDC that the Reading Police Department had issued a memo stating their belief that the building would “have too great an impact on traffic and parking” in the area.
After Weston shared that he doubted the viability of the retail space, a discussion regarding the potential use of the space as a professional or office space ensued. Safina even wondered if the project would be acceptable as a residential-only project. The CPDC continued the public hearing to August 8 at 7:30pm.
583 Main Street
CPDC also voted 5-0 to approve the certificate of appropriateness for new canopies for Pizza World at 583 Main Street and offered comments for a new sign for the Mattera Cabin at 1481 Main Street.
CPDC reorganized, electing Clish as chair and Meyer as secretary for the coming year starting in July. CPDC adjourned at 12:00am.