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Old 09-17-2006, 02:00 PM   #1
pharmerdave
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Mishawum Station

By Alexander Reid, Globe Staff | September 17, 2006

Four apartment buildings with 210 units beside a commuter rail station with lines running into Boston. Office space with parking for 600 vehicles. A landscaped, park-like setting with walkways and gardens.
For months, Woburn city leaders and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority have weighed ideas for reusing the old Mishawum Station. Now they have an idea of what the land's reuse could look like.
Woburn city councilors knew about the proposal from the land's owners, Northern Bank & Trust, when they approved the zoning necessary for the residential and commercial development in August. The vote was 8 to 1 to establish a zoning overlay district at the site.

The land today is a vacant, asphalt-covered expanse. It is in North Woburn, just off Route 128, bordered on one side by Mishawum Road. The MBTA reduced service at Mishawum Station in 2001 after it opened the Anderson Regional Transportation Center on a 34-acre parcel two miles to the north.

Woburn Planning Director Edmund Tarallo said the project could be a model of smart growth or concentrated development around a transit station, given its proximity to the commuter rail stop, retail shops, malls, and other office buildings scattered throughout this part of Woburn.

A major element, said Tarallo, is whether the MBTA ever restores full service to the line. Trains now make three inbound and three outbound stops at the station.

``You would have the residential and commercial components of smart growth, but the public transportation piece is not there yet," he said. ``You need more frequent train schedules, which people can build their schedules around. That way, they'll walk to it and use it."

Restoration of full service would be contingent on several factors, including potential ridership and the actual number of residential units built near the station, said MBTA officials.

Lydia Rivera, a spokeswoman for the authority, said the agency would not make a determination until the development is built. ``Right now it would be premature to discuss transportation alternatives at the station," she said.

With the council's approval of the zoning, developers are moving through the permitting process. Attorney James Mawn Jr. said the owners must now obtain special permits for the office and residential components of the plan from the City Council.

``Getting the overlay plan approved was critical, but we still have a ways to go with the special permits," he said. The land was previously zoned as office park, which would have prohibited apartments.

``The special permit process is where we go into greater detail of our plans for the site. We could be asked to make modifications, but we hope not to have to deviate too much from the scope of what we have put before the council," said Mawn.
City Councilor Scott Galvin, the board member who cast the sole vote against the project, said he will argue that the development be scaled back during hearings for the special permit.
``My argument all along has been that this is still too dense at 210 apartments," he said. ``I think something along the lines of 100 or so residential units would be more appropriate. I intend to seek a reduction in the number of units they are planning."

Mawn said the developer thinks that the MBTA will require at least 210 apartments to reopen the station and that the project is well designed for the site.

The property would be subdivided into two parcels, one of 5 acres and another measuring 2.5 acres. Four seven-story apartment buildings are planned for the larger tract. Ten percent of the residential units would be designated affordable. A 50,000-square-foot office building would be built on the second parcel, according to the plans. The office building would house the headquarters for Northern Bank, a local company with current offices on Lexington Street.

Aesthetic features such as landscaped open spaces with trees, gardens, and walking paths would be included to create a park-like feel to the new neighborhood.

Mawn said the developers are hoping to start construction next year.

``Some of the final aspects of what we're planning to do could change a bit as we go through this stage of the permitting process, but we're hoping to start construction next spring," he said.

The current development plan is the second to be proposed for the land.

In 2004, the MBTA, with former Woburn mayor John Curran's support, designed a proposal for a 200-room hotel, a 250-unit apartment complex, and a fire station that was to be given to the city. But the City Council rejected the plan over concerns that it was too dense. In 2005, the MBTA sold the land to Northern Bank & Trust for $7.2 million.

Galvin said the current proposal is as dense as the one rejected by the council in 2005.

``It's a different project, with almost the same density," he said. ``They want to put 210 units on a five-acre parcel, then have an office building right next to that. It's too much."

City Council president Charles E. Doherty said the development proposal differs significantly from the plan rejected by the council last year.

``They were proposing more residential units, all surface parking, and no green space," said Doherty. ``The current plan has underground parking, fewer units, and a lot of open, landscaped park areas."

Even so, Doherty said, the project's proponents will have to address concerns about density and traffic during hearings for the special permit.

``This is still something that the council will debate," he said. ``Traffic and density are the two biggest questions" that the developers will have to address.
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Old 09-19-2006, 05:17 AM   #2
quadratdackel
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The density, the density! Oh, no, sound the alarms!

My only concern would be about the surrounding area. What's nearby this place? Can the people there walk to other things, or are they forced to drive everywhere they can't take the occasional commuter train to?
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Old 09-19-2006, 12:34 PM   #3
ChunkyMonkey
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It's just typical suburbia, with the Woburn mall nearby, and various big box stores and an Applebees, not very walkable.
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