Plans for a major, 396-unit residential building on the generationally-derelict corner of Norman Street and Air Force Road had a major hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) on Monday night, where the companies architects and consultants revealed plans and alterations for the project – which has major support from abutters like Night Shift Brewing and Bone Up Brewery.
The corner has been an industrial wasteland for generations, and largely in a time when few cared about that area of Everett – which has now become a very trendy spot with breweries, rock climbing, recreation and even adjacent to the site of the annual Village Fest. For years it was only a yard that hosted rusted out shipping containers, and nothing much else.
Now, there are plans for lush green spaces for new residents and the public, a small retail space and a well-designed six-story building using a variety of materials. Lennar is based in Miami and is the largest home building in the United States. They first came to Everett about one year ago with the idea for the site. Now, they hope to be able to work their way through online meetings, represented by local Attorney Richard O’Neil, to get approvals for 13 necessary zoning variances.
Architect Tom Schultz said they will have 396 units (81 studios, 181 one-bedrooms, and 134 two-bedrooms) in a six story building. The first two floors will be podium parking with 500 spaces, and there will be four floors of residential units. They will also have loads of amenities around the front entrance from Air Force Road, while adding an outdoor pool area and Cyberdeck. There will be 59 affordable units within the development as well.
“Our program design was challenging in that we wanted to create a real sense of place whereby we are surrounded for now by heavy industrial uses,” said Schultz.
“We truly hope this becomes the cornerstone of the neighborhood,” said O’Neil. “This is going to be a great community construction project and this is a project that is going to enhance the area.”
One challenge in the development is the site, where there are a number of major utility easements and a new flood zone that constrict where the building can go. Lennar said they were looking at it as an obstacle, but a challenge to work around.
In response, they have created a unique building with a creative design, and a lot more green space on Air Force Road than originally proposed. The lush, several-acre open space will have a central gathering law, a pocket park and a number of areas to sit. Because they could not build on that part, they decided to make an amenity of it.
O’Neil said it will act as a gateway to the larger parkland and bike path just down Air Force Road.
Among the variance needed are parking variances, as they would need two spaces per unit but have 1.26 per unit. They also have a 70-foot building with six stories, and zoning allows 65 feet with five stories.
“None of these variances, while there are many of them, are really a heavy lift,” he said.
There were plenty of supporters, including Councilor Michael McLaughlin, Member Michael Dantone, Member Roger Thistle and State Rep. Joe McGonagle – as well as the local businesses around it.
McLaughlin – who represents the area – said he does support the project, but was not happy that there had not been a neighborhood meeting before COVID-19.
“I support the project but the residents should have an opportunity to weigh in on a development of this size,” he said. “I can’t believe they didn’t request a meeting of some kind to be held.”
O’Neil said there was wide support and plenty of opportunities to weigh in on the project at the many Planning Board meetings held before the COVID-19 shutdowns.
ZBA Chair Mary Gerace said the matter is going to be open for comment, as is done now with online meetings, for the next two weeks. The meeting can also be viewed in the interim as well by residents. The matter will likely be taken up for a vote at the June 15 meeting.