Reading, MA — The Reading Municipal Light Department (RMLD) Board of Commissioners and the Select Board met in a joint session on Monday to begin conversations around the potential redevelopment of the area between Ash Street and the railroad tracks, known colloquially as the “eastern gateway.” This area was identified in a 2015 economic development study as one of the few areas in town that is underdeveloped and has potential for economic growth. Conceptual ideas were drawn up in 2019, though the pandemic sidelined the issue. The joint meeting, organized by Select Board chair Mark Dockser, is just the beginning of discussions on the issue.
The area hosts RMLD as well as several other businesses and is owned by multiple landowners. Any redevelopment of the area would include repurposing the 3,000 square foot historic RMLD “Station One”’ building and may also include relocating RMLD operations and storage to another place in town. “There are over forty vehicles, including fifteen bucket trucks on site,” RMLD General Manager Colleen O’Brien shared. RMLD rents 21,000 square feet of storage space in a large 45,000 square foot building behind its office building at 230 Ash Street.
RMLD member David Talbot suggested the first step of creating a plan for the RMLD conference room to be made available for other community uses. As discussion of the historic building continued, Assistant Town Manager Jean Delios suggested that an environmental assessment of the building might need to be done if it were to be made available for other uses. RMLD currently uses the space for records storage.
Select Board member Carlo Bacci warned that if an environmental study is done, RMLD or the town may be liable for any remediation efforts that may be needed, though Bacci expressed enthusiasm that the area is put to the “highest and best use for the town.” Delios also shared that an Economic Development Summit is planned for October 5 at RMLD, to which the neighbors on abutting streets will be invited. “We need to identify what the neighborhood will support,” Delios added.
Action steps for the group moving forward will include a consultation with Town Counsel regarding the risks involved with an environmental assessment; an administrative space needs assessment for RMLD, gauging the interest property owners on the site might have in selling or remodeling their properties, and a plan for the use of the conference room. Another joint meeting is planned for Monday, June 6 at 6:30 pm.
The joint session adjourned at 7:30 pm.