Arlington Redevelopment Board - Sep 27th, 2021

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Meeting conducted via remote participation. Materials were available from

Docket 3665 - 645 Massachusetts Avenue

(Jenny Raitt, Planning Director) Ms. Raitt informed the board that the applicant has requested a continuance to October 25th.

The board votes in favor of continuing, 5--0.

Docket 3673 - 455--457 Massachusetts Avenue

The petitioner owns a commercial property at the corner of Mass Ave and Medford St. They'd like to renovate the building and convert it to mixed use, with commercial space on the ground floor and apartments on the second.

(Robert Annese, Attorney) Mr. Annese explains that his client is seeking to convert a corner block on Mass Ave and Medford Street. They'd like to add a second floor to the Medford St side of the building. The Medford street part of the property is listed as a historic building, and they'll have to go before the Historical Commission. They're proposing thirteen apartments (one studio and twelve one-bedroom), and ten commercial spaces. The redevelopment will include a garage with fourteen parking spaces.

(John Murphy, Developer) Mr. Murphy says that almost all of the existing foundation footprint will remain. The former Papa Gino's space stretches back into the parking lot. They'll keep the front of that space, and have a potential future tenant lined up. They plan to remove the back part of that space and build a garage podium with apartments above. They'll reconfigure the corner space to provide a lobby for residents, and long term bicycle parking. The existing stepback on the second floor will remain, due to the location of the building's load bearing supports.

(Peter Slowik, Architect) Mr. Slowik says they intend to renovate and enhance the commercial frontage. Existing commercial tenants will not be displaced. They intend to provide enough outdoor lighting for a safe living environment. The existing street lights will remain, and will be augmented with down lights.

(Aaron Mackey, Engineer) Mr. Mackey notes that the existing parking in the rear of the building consists of tandem spaces, and they're not very usable. The garage will have sixteen spaces. There will also be a dumpster enclosure, and eight short-term bicycle parking spaces along Park Terrace. Zoning requires 6.3 short-term bicycle spaces. They're also providing 26 long-term bicycle parking spaces where 20.6 are required.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese says the applicants are seeking relief in several areas, and he believes it's in the ARB's authority to grant it. He believes the addition of mixed use development supports goals in the master plan, and may encourage other owners to improve their properties.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt suggests several areas where the board may want more information: lighting, signage, and what will happen with existing tenants. Also site circulation for deliveries and trash removal. Ms. Raitt reports that the applicant asked about making the parklet at Park Terrace permanent, which would make circulation more challenging. She advises the applicants to have their Historical Commission review sooner rather than later.

(Rachel Zsembery, ARB Chair) Ms. Zsembery asks about Park Terrace circulation.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says there are no loading zones on Medford St. Delivery drivers just pull to the side and make do the best they can. He believes that trash trucks will be able to back out of the site, and the garage has enough room for vehicles to turn around. Regarding the parklet, the family may be willing to donate seating and a pergola in the future.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks about lighting.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says there will be lighting under the garage, which will be kept to the interior of the space.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if there will be lighting in the alley.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says they're planning to have lighting above each rear door, and probably safety lights long the ground in the alley.

(Peter Slowik) Mr. Slowik says they'll use down lights over the doors.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if they plan to clean up the rear alley. (There are collections of pipes and building materials piled there.)

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says they will clean up the alley. They also plan to use pervious pavers for the alley walkway.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese wishes to make a clarification about the Historical Commission review. The Commission will see the full plans for the building, but he doesn't intend to concede the Mass Ave side of the building to their jurisdiction.

(Kin Lau, ARB) Mr. Lau fully supports the project. He asks if the garage will be enclosed.

(Peter Slowik) Mr. Slowik says it will be a passively ventilated garage.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau would like to see a more detailed sketch of the alley. He envisions it being like a tiny street in Paris. He notes the plans show one restaurant vent, and suggests they may need a separate ventilation shaft for each restaurant.

(Peter Slowik) Mr. Slowik believes they can route duct work within the space created by the fly-over construction.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau encourages leaving duct space for the other side. He asks several questions about the floor plans for individual apartments. For apartments that face the alley, he suggests offsetting the windows, so they're not directly across from each other. He'd also like to see material samples.

(Eugene Benson, ARB) Mr. Benson agrees that it's a promising proposal, and he'd also like to see material samples. Mr. Benson asks if the building will get a new roof.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says yes, it will get a new roof.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if they're planning to install solar panels.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says they're planning to make the roof solar ready.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if there will be EV charging stations in the garage.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says they're planning to have one charging station initially, and it's called out on the plans.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks for a description of the landscaping plan.

(Aaron Mackey) Mr. Mackey says that most of the landscaping will be done alongside the garage. There will be a row of plantings on the left side, a row of shrubs on the right, and a flowering tree near the dumpster enclosure.

There's back and forth about the planting plans.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if there will be room for larger trees.

(Aaron Mackey) Mr. Mackey says they're open to the idea, but he'd have to check with the landscape architect.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson asks if there's a transportation demand management (TDM) plan.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese says they plan to comply with TDM plan requirements. They'd like to provide bike share facilities and preferred parking for carpool vehicles.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson doesn't believe that required bicycle parking spaces can count as part of a TDM plan.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says the applicants will need a TDM plan, and agrees that required bicycle parking can't be used to fulfill TDM requirements. She advises the applications to review section 6.1.5(C) of the Zoning bylaw, and pick from the eight options that aren't bicycle parking.

(Melisa Tintocalis, ARB) Ms. Tintocalis appreciates the mixed use element. She asks about residential access to the outside, and whether there'll be a balcony.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says there's a small balcony on the front corner. It will be wide enough to walk out on, but not large enough to be a gathering space. There would be private access for two units.

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis asks if there was any consideration given to having a common area on the rooftop.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy believes there won't be much room left, after adding solar and building mechanicals.

(Steve Revilak, ARB) Mr. Revilak notes that the roof plan indicates locations for air source heat pumps. He asks for a description of the building mechanicals, and wants to know where natural gas will be used.

(Peter Slowik) Mr. Slowik says that the residential units will have air source heat pumps, of the mini-split variety. They'll be all-electric, with no natural gas service.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak notes that the stormwater report shows a significant flow reduction from the site. He asks if the applicants can walk him through their stormwater management system.

(Aaron Mackey) Mr. Mackey explains that there are two main elements to the stormwater management system: pervious pavers in the alleyway and a subsurface system beneath the garage. Roof runoff will be piped under the garage, where there's capacity to handle a 100-year rainfall event. Currently, most rainwater sheet-flows off the side, and the stormwater best management practices will greatly reduce that.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak appreciates the addition of a mural, and the restoration of the stonework and Mass Ave facade.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if the applicants are planning to upgrade the former Papa Gino's space.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says they are.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if they're planning to clean up the first floor facade on Medford Street.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says they're planning to repoint the brickwork.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery asks if they're planning to remove old hardware from that face of the building.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says they can, but it really depends on the landlord/tenant relationship.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she'd like to see a rendering of the back alley, and wants a better understanding of the garage elevation. She'd also like to see details of the dumpster enclosure and to get the height of building mechanicals.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau asks if the garage will have room for a handicapped van.

(Peter Slowik) Mr. Slowik says yes, it meets that requirement.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says that van parking is important, and would like to see that clarified in the project narrative.

The chair opens the hearing to public comment.

(Susan Stamps) Ms. Stamps says the tree committee talked about the renovation of Broadway plaza, and it will be a tremendous loss. This area will need more greenery and trees. She asks if the building design could incorporate green walls. A small amount of vegetation won't do much, but a larger tree and planters would be nice.

(Greg Mazmanian) Mr. Mazmanian owns the building across the street on Medford St, and he congratulates the owners for investing in their building. He encourages the landlord to have one continuous awning along Medford St.

(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer believes this project is in the spirit of the mixed use bylaw. He points out that this project will have a problem meeting open space requirements. He says the first fifteen feet of alleyway won't get any sun, and doubts that plantings will survive, with the possible exception of hostas. He suggests using the roof for usable open space.

There are no further comments from the public.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery would like to summarize the various things the board has asked for so far. These include:

  • elevations for the garage
  • elevations for the alleyway
  • color renderings
  • material samples
  • trees
  • a TDM plan
  • details of the dumpster enclosure
  • signage details
  • a description of the site's solar field potential
  • site plans an illustrations that show more of the surrounding area.
  • optimizations to unit layout

Ms. Zsembery asks if board members have additional comments.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson wonders if some of the short-term bicycle parking could be moved up front.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy thinks they may be able to locate some spaces near the parklet.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson would like a clarification that the garage parking is for residents only.

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis wonders if there's a way for the applicant to provide more open space.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak said he's given thought to open space on this site. He notes that open space in our bylaw is a dimensional regulation that tries to simultaneously limit lot coverage and building mass. His first instinct would have been to ask the applicants to remove 25 linear feet or so from the Medford St. side of the building; that part of the building is listed as a historic structure, so it's probably not an option. His next thought was to ask about removing 25' or so linear feet from the Mass Ave side; that would put a big hole in the streetscape and create a funny looking facade. He believes that Mr. Seltzer is correct: some open space could be put on the roof, because it's less than ten feet above the lowest floor used for dwelling purposes. However, rooftop open space can only be used to satisfy 50% of the requirement, so this project will need some relief for open space.

Mr. Revilak asks if the applicants can provide details on the roofing materials, and whether they plan to use a high albedo material.

(John Murphy) Mr. Murphy says that several of the commercial tenants recently installed awnings, and he's not sure those awnings could simply be replaced.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says she's interested in looking at the signage as a whole when redoing the facade.

(Melisa Tintocalis) Ms. Tintocalis says she's not looking for uniformity in the awning or signage. She's more interested in enhancements.

The board motions to continue the hearing until Oct 25th. Motion passes, 5--0.

Docket 3348 - 833 Massachusetts Avenue

This docket involves the Atwood house, a decaying building next to CVS pharmacy.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery notes that this item is on the board's agenda because the board had requested monthly updates from the applicant.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt asks if the applicants can provide an update from the Historical Commission.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese reports that Inspectional Services Director Mike Ciampa sent a letter to the Historical Commission, indicating that the building had been wrapped. They are waiting for an electric hookup in order to install surveillance cameras. The Historical Commission didn't have photos of the prior siding, so Mr. Annese provided some. The owner will appear before the Historical Commission on October 5th, and Mr. Annese expects them to say what kind of siding to use. Mr. Annese brought an architect to answer Mr. Benson's earlier questions about adding on to the back of the building.

(Monte French, Architect) Mr. French says the issue is the proximity of the house to the CVS parking lot. Adding on to the rear would put residents practically in the lot, and the pharmacy's drive-thru lane. They'd previously studied the house and felt they could to a more viable job by rebuilding and redeveloping the site. Moving the building closer to Mass Ave would allow a better development.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese believes that most of the demo permit sign-offs are done.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson thanks Mr. Annese for answering his earlier questions. He points out that the 2009 special permit reserved ten parking spaces in the rear of for the Atwood house. He believes that's not consistent with what Mr. French said earlier. Mr. Benson believes there's room to expand in the rear.

(Robert Annese) Mr. Annese notes that nothing in the special permit mandates preservation of the building.

(Eugene Benson) Mr. Benson says he's not happy with the possibility that the building will remain boarded up for two years, while they wait for the demolition delay.

(Kin Lau) Mr. Lau says it seems like a waste for the owner to spend $170,000 to reconstruct the building, only to tear it down later. He'd rather fine the applicant and use the money for affordable housing.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says there's not really a way to do that, given the jurisdiction of the Historical Commission. She's also not happy about the possibility of having a "staged house" that sits around for two years.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak believes this aspect is really up to the Historical Commission. If they want to impose a punitive punishment by having the applicant restore the house and wait two years for demolition, then that's their decision. As Ms. Raitt said, we'll have a staged house that sits around for two years before being demolished.

There's more discussion among board members. Mr. Benson is interested in keeping the hearing open, and possibly amending the 2009 special permit.

There's a motion to continue the hearing to Oct 25th. Motion passes, 5--0.

ARB Committee Appointments for ARB Members and Designees

The board approves the list of committee appointments, 5--0.

Draft FY22 ARB Updated Goals

After a bit of wordsmithing, the board adopts the FY22 goals, 5--0.

Zoning Warrant Article filing process/ coordination with Redevelopment Board

The board reviews the timetable for warrant article submissions, which was prepared by planning staff. Ms. Zsembery wants to encourage proponents to start working with the ARB sooner rather than later. Mr. Revilak agrees.

Approval of Meeting Minutes

The board amended and approved meeting minutes from August 30th and September 11, 2021.

Open Forum

(Don Seltzer) Mr. Seltzer says the 2009 special permit for CVS set aside land in the rear of the Atwood house for future development. He believes the owners could double the footprint of the building by expanding in the rear.

Meeting adjourned.