Reading, MA — In conjunction with the Select Board, Town Manager Fidel Maltez hosted a community meeting in the Performing Arts Center of the Reading Memorial High School on Wednesday at 6:00 pm to discuss the use of the town-owned land on Oakland Road across from Reading Memorial High School. Maltez shared that the purpose of the meeting was to propose an idea for the use of the land and to “receive feedback on this concept.” Maltez also quickly pointed out that this was the beginning of the process, and no decisions had yet been made. “This is the first meeting of many,” Maltez explained.
Maltez opened with a brief history of the property, obtained by the town in the 1930s, and has been considered for many projects, including a police station, a teen center, and an early learning center. He continued, sharing that other towns such as Milton and Lynnfield have partnered with outside organizations to create housing. Executive Director of the Reading Housing Authority, Katie Gallant, spoke, sharing the need for housing in Reading for senior citizens and young families. “Most of my day is spent hearing from families that can no longer afford to live in Reading,” Gallant shared.
Jen Hockman, an architect from SV Design, then shared a concept plan for the site. A 35-unit senior living facility is proposed on the site’s southern portion, toward Hillside Road. This three-story building would be built slightly into the hill, giving the impression of a two-story building on the residential sides, with a three-story presentation on the Oakland Road side. A 31-space parking lot is also proposed.
Hockman then shared a proposal for a loop road in the more significant northern section of the site, containing sixteen duplex units, each with a garage. “The idea is that this is not just Anytown USA, but that it fits in with [Reading],” Hockman shared.
Residents had mixed reactions to the plans; while several noted the need for this type of housing in town and even enthusiasm for the project, others questioned the choice to build on this site. Reverend Jamie Michaels of the Old South United Methodist Church shared, “The kind of housing proposed here respects the needs of those who already live in Reading and are being forced to make some tough decisions.” Select Board chair Mark Dockser stated, “We need to think about what the needs of the community are, what are the things we need to work on and figure out what are the different resources we have to address them.”
The primary concern for many residents, especially those on the nearby Hillside Road, is increased traffic. Several residents shared concerns about the traffic situation from the high school now and suggested that this development would only increase the problem. Resident Melissa Gentile suggested, “Adding cars to our neighborhood is dangerous.” Abutter Lisa Goldsmith added, “[Traffic concerns are] the issue that is a make or break for this project.”
Maltez closed the meeting, thanking the crowd for its input and reminding people that many more meetings and information sessions were to come. The meeting ended at 8:10 pm.