After the 9 p.m. hour on Monday night, some of the biggest news since the casino opening in June broke in the Keverian Room.
A California company, Capital Hall, waited until the end of the two-hour Planning Board meeting to present their initial plans for 591 units of housing, plus retail space and open space, on the Market Forge site – a critical property on the Parkway that has lain dormant and polluted for decades.
“There is a gigantic need for remediation of environmental contamination,” said Peter Bartash of Capital Hall. “We see a community with a very low vacancy rate and one that needs housing desperately. We took all the guidelines from the zoning put in place in 2018. We had Stantec design it, and we know you are very familiar with them. It was a very unique opportunity to put these design guidelines to use in developing our project.”
Those design guidelines are the 2018 Commercial Triangle Economic Development Area, a guideline put in to encourage large residential or office developments over the traditional industrial uses that have been lining the Parkway for decades. Since 2018, no one has come in under the guidelines with a new project, but now Capital Hall has proposed the first large project for the area, calling themselves the “beta test” for the area.
What they came up with is something that the City Planners and Planning Board were quite impressed with to this point.
The project includes 591 units (about 88 units would be affordable housing units) of housing in two buildings, with 766 parking spaces on three levels and 7,300 sq. ft. of ground floor retail. The design includes a sweeping front courtyard and entrance/exits/loading zones in the back off of Garvey Street. There is a dog park, three levels of parking that are very hidden from view, and a pedestrian walk through that empties into public courtyards.
It all sits on a massive 4.6 acre site that would need to be environmentally cleaned up.
The astounding thing about it all is that it all conforms to zoning guidelines. There are no special permits, variances or Planning Board approvals needed – only a Site Plan Review
Tamara Roy of Stantec said they designed the buildings to be broken up into two sites that have bump outs and angles to complement the flow of Second Street.
“The rhythm of the street is contouring as you walk down the street as opposed to being one single wall along the sidewalk,” she said. “There are setbacks and back massing.”
The project also raises the ground floor to 11’ to make sure it is out of the flood plain for future climate change issues.
Member Leo Pizzano said he liked the building a great deal, but his number one concern will be parking and traffic.
“We’re going to key on traffic,” she said. “When the traffic plan comes before us, it will be scrutinized and we’ll probably be asking for a peer review because we don’t want one fix-all. We will key on how you plan to get the traffic in and out of there.”
The Traffic Engineer for the project said they plan on using the Garvey Street area as a way of avoiding cars entering Second Street.
One of the team members from Capital Hall indicated they have been trying to buy the All Checks Cashed store in front of their property – abutting the Parkway – but nothing has been negotiated yet.
Planner Tony Sousa said Capital Hall is expected to file their project very soon, and that he expects them to be before the Planning Board on Dec. 9.