After a nearly three-hour Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) public hearing last week, the fate of the long-discussed 600 Broadway mixed-use apartment and restaurant proposal is still up in the air.
Although the City Hall chambers were packed with supporters wearing red 600 Broadway T-shirts in support of the project, there were also a number of abutters and one City Councilor who urged putting the brakes on the project, at least for the time being.
The proposal went before the ZBA in December, and with a jam-packed room at the Parlin Library, had to be continued due to a lack of quorum on the Board. It was also continued earlier this month when a ZBA meeting was canceled on Jan. 6.
Last Tuesday, as the clock neared 10 p.m. and nearly a dozen people were heard from on both side of the issues, the ZBA unanimously agreed to table the decision on granting zoning relief for parking, building height, and setbacks to its February meeting.
“We need time to do our due diligence and go over the substantial amount of information we received tonight,” said ZBA member Michael Dantone.
In addition, Dantone suggested that John Tocco, Chairman of A10 Development, which is developing the two parcels at 596 and 602 Broadway along with Volnay Capital, hold a neighborhood meeting to address any lingering concerns about the projects.
The abutters who spoke in opposition to the project voiced several concerns, including a lack of parking and building height.
Tocco said there will be 37 on-site parking spots for the development, where 170 are required as the city’s zoning regulations are written. However, Tocco said anyone who rents at 600 Broadway will not be allowed to take part in the City’s on-street parking permit program.
As for building height, Tocco presented a 68-foot, six story building, where zoning regulations allow for a height of 65 feet.
The first floor will include a restaurant and retail space, and the rest of the building 85 studio, one-, and two-bedroom units, with 13 of those units set aside under the City’s inclusionary zoning affordable housing guidelines.
The owners of Square Deli in Everett are looking to open a full-service restaurant on the first floor.
“This will be a transit-oriented, mixed-use development that embraces the bus lanes, and is a new, attractive and clean residence for people,” said Tocco. “We are trying to make the units efficient and affordable.”
The marketing of the apartments will be geared toward young people who are graduating from college and want to remain in Everett, as well as older people who are retiring and want to downsize and remain in the City.
Vincent Ragucci, Jr. said he is a retiree who is one of those people looking for an affordable option to rent and stay in Everett.
“If everything gets approved, I’m looking to be one of the first people to sign a lease,” said Ragucci. “What is being built here is not down on the Parkway, this is a prime piece of real estate right in the heart of the city, and it is beautiful.”
The goodwill toward Tocco and what he accomplished in his seven years as Encore community liaison was evident during the meeting. Several times, the hearing seemed more like an appreciation dinner for Tocco, as even several residents with concerns about the project said they trusted Tocco to do the right thing.
But there were several residents with concerns, stating that even with the parking restrictions, it would mean more hardship and traffic for people living on the side streets near the new complex.
“I am not against Everett progressing, but I am against a shadow over my entire property with an over 60-foot building,” said Hosmer Street resident Shawn McCullock. “I am not questioning anyone’s integrity, but the concessions they are asking for are incredible … A lot of folks heard in favor of this do not live in my neighborhood. I have people parking in front of my driveway and blocking me in constantly.”
City Councilor-at-Large Gerly Adrien said she recently walked the neighborhood near 600 Broadway and talked to several residents who have concerns about the project.
“I spoke to 21 residents at their homes and three said they supported it and the rest said they did not support it,” said Adrien. “They said no one had come around to their neighborhood to speak to them about it, and that is a concern.”
Tocco said he understood the concerns that were being voiced, but added that the developers have spent the past year reaching out, speaking to hundreds of residents, and making themselves available at every opportunity.
However, Tocco said he and the development team are willing to meet with abutters before the next ZBA meeting to discuss any of those concerns.
“We would love the opportunity to engage and be responsive and respectful to the community,” he said.
The next ZBA meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 3. While the board members will be able to ask questions and discuss the proposal, the public input portion of the hearing has been closed.