After one self-storage project on the Parkway made its way firmly under the skin of Mayor Carlo DeMaria and City Planners, a second self-storage on the Parkway has been approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for the Mark’s Discount building, or the former Eagle Shoe factory.
The building is owned by Mai Luo of Weston, who purchased it in February for $4.48 million, and it was previously used in part as a self-storage facility. A two-story building near Mark’s was used for self-storage, as were floors two through four of the Discount building. At the September ZBA meeting, the owner’s attorney, Dave O’Neil, explained that they were only looking to convert the retail portion of the building – making it one consistent use.
“During the exploration of possible uses, a number of challenges were discovered, including the long and narrow shape of the building,” read a filing with the ZBA. “It is only 35 feet wide and there are a number of small, extensive interior columns.”
That, the filing read, made it impossible to explore alternative uses such as residential. After trying to combine the property with surrounding parcels to make one large development site, the owner struck out. He has now settled for a 400-unit self-storage project.
“A consistent use will benefit the appearance of the property and will prevent any change of use that would be disruptive to the residential abutters (on Lewis Street).”
O’Neil said they plan to improve the interior of the building, beautify the exterior of the building and landscape the front parking lot. The Mark’s Discount/Zapatos store would be eliminated.
Councilor Wayne Matewsky – who lives on Lewis Street right behind the building – said he isn’t a big fan of the use, but said the new owner is likely buying time until he can do something larger. He also said he was impressed that Luo came door-to-door to the neighbors to introduce himself.
“He’s looking to do that for about three or four years I think until he can put together a bigger development,” said Matewsky. “He’s promised to landscape the property and clean it up. I have to say he came around knocking door-to-door in the neighborhood. That’s the first time anyone’s done that. His ultimate goal is to acquire more property in back to do a bigger development down there. We anticipate the future to be bright.”
O’Neil also said one of the proponents for the project was the owner of Mark’s Discount – who said it wasn’t a good retail location and would work better as self-storage.
However, not everyone is in line with self-storage on the Parkway.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria didn’t have any immediate comment on the Mark’s project, but has spoken up loudly against the other self-storage on the Parkway. He has said it isn’t the highest and best use for land on the Parkway and he would rather not see such facilities in an area of Everett poised for dramatic growth in the next few years.
O’Neil said self-storage is part of the housing boom, like it or not. With smaller, sleek units – both luxury and affordable – he said the caveat is there is nowhere to put one’s “stuff.”
“A lot of these new housing units have nice lines, they’re clean and sleek, but they have nowhere for people to put their stuff,” he said. “People will have stuff…It’s really a natural by-product of this housing market. They do serve a purpose and people need them and use them.”
Councilor Fred Capone, who represents the area, said he understands the desire not to have self-storage on the Parkway, but in this case, it would have been hard to deny it.
“I know it’s not the administration’s preferred use for the area, but if it’s already there, then it’s already there,” he said. “I can see denying it if you’re going into an area brand new, but if it’s something that is already in use, you put yourself in a tough spot legally if you deny it.”