Planning Board/EDC Collaborative w/NMCOG Study

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Planning Board/EDC Collaborative w/NMCOG Study

Postby swamper on Mon Feb 28, 2011 1:39 am

From Sunday's Lowell Sun:

What's next for Woburn St. corridor?

By Joyce Tsai,
Updated: 02/27/2011 06:35:41 AM EST

TEWKSBURY -- The results of a study of the Woburn Street corridor that looks into the area's economic development potential will be presented to the public for the first time tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

The Planning Board and Economic Development Committee will hear a presentation by the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments, as well as discuss potential changes in zoning that could open the area for future development, said Beverly Woods, NMCOG's executive director.

The 1.7-mile stretch of roadway mixes residential and industrial properties. It extends southeast from the Interstate 495 interchange, along Woburn Street in South Lowell, through Tewksbury, and then turns into Billerica Avenue in Billerica, ending at Mount Pleasant Street.

Because of the property mix, the communities may want to consider creating a buffer zone between the residential to industrial zones, such as "commercial support areas where you can take your dry cleaning or drop off your child for day care," she said.

"What we'll be looking for is some kind of consensus going forward with those rezoning issues," she said.

Tewksbury sees the corridor as an economic target area, and it hopes to provide incentives to businesses to build there, Woods said. Raytheon had a plant on nearly 31 acres in Tewksbury and Billerica, but that closed in the 1980s. Jabil Circuit also occupied the site, but the company closed about two years ago. Town officials hope to find a new tenant, Woods said.

The NMCOG study was funded by a state grant of $7,000. The state Department of Transportation's gave $27,000 to look at the transportation patterns. The study also examines the need for more pedestrian- and bike-friendly trails to improve access to the North Billerica commuter rail station, which is located on the corridor, Woods said.

"This is the first part of a public process to look at zoning and land use on Woburn Street, which dovetails into the economic development, improvement and revitalization of the area -- since it's a gateway to the town," said Planning Board member Nancy Reed.

Developers have expressed an interest in potential expansion, because it's a prime location off I-495, she said.

The town will also be looking similar studies to improve economic development of East Street toward Dascomb Road.
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Re: Planning Board/EDC Collaborative w/NMCOG Study

Postby swamper on Tue Mar 01, 2011 5:05 pm

Tewksbury Plan Board reviews Woburn St.
By Joyce Tsai,
Updated: 03/01/2011 08:57:18 AM EST

TEWKSBURY -- The redevelopment of the Woburn Street corridor off of I-495 is near the top of Tewksbury's economic wish list.

Its potential is perhaps second only to the I-93 interchange Tri-Town area, said Director of Community Development Steve Sadwick.

"It's in our highest level of interest," along with the Ames Pond corporate park, which lost Avid Technology Inc. last year to a new site in Burlington, Sadwick said.

That's why the town's Planning Board is weighing heavily the possibility of rezoning parts of the corridor to spur more commercial growth, he said. In particular, it's home to a former Raytheon Co. site where the town would like to find a new tenant.

The Planning Board, which met last night, will soon begin weighing the findings of a study released and presented last night by the North Middlesex Council of Governments.

Specifically, the study recommends the creation of a buffer zone between the current mix of residential and industrial zones that would add commercial support areas of mixed-retail uses.

"You have a lot of industrial and office space," said Beverly Woods, NMCOG's executive director. "But you don't have a lot of places where someone can take their drycleaning around lunchtime or grab something quick for lunch."

There are about 8 acres of vacant space along the corridor in Tewksbury, and about 84 acres are "underutilized," she said. Those areas include the Billerica Business Center (30 acres) and the former Raytheon building parcel (30 acres), which spans both Tewksbury and Billerica.

The former Raytheon campus includes a 500,000-square-foot building, as well as the ability to build out another 200,000 square feet, Sadwick said after the meeting. Town officials also hope to provide economic incentives for a company to occupy the site, which was last used by Jabil Circuit, a Florida-based contract manufacturer that that shut down its local operations about two years ago.

The study also recommended the addition of several traffic signals, including the southbound and northbound ramps of I-495 at Woburn Street, to improve traffic flow, and more pedestrian-friendly trails to the nearby North Billerica rail station.

Planning Board members said the study would help them decide how to move forward on improving the area's development. Chairman David Plunkett asked that the study be made available online at the NMCOG and town websites.

The board wanted to start the public process early, before it proposed zoning changes, board member Nancy Reed said.

"And from the faces I see, this is a good turnout on what could be a significant betterment of the town," she said.

Woburn Street resident Gloria Zimmer said she was concerned that zoning changes might "take away from our home and business values."

Richard Martel, who owns Martel Welding on Woburn Street, said he was curious what area businesses were contacted for the study, since it looked as though it mainly took into account the interests of Realtors and developers.

But Martel and Zimmer said they planned to read the study at length -- and see what the town plans to propose first -- before taking a position on its recommendations.
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