Wayne Alarm: Be safe in your apartment



Apartment fire are much more common than we all might like to think, which is a little frightening to think about. Whether your residence is a single-family home or an apartment, it’s important to take the calm and proper steps that can save your life. The majority of fire are results of kitchen/cooking, heating equipments such as space heaters, and even arson which includes children at times playing with fire.

So you might ask yourself: Well, I live in an apartment. What can I do if I’m ever in this situation?

Performing a fire inspection and ensuring that everything is up-to-code can make a big difference. Here are some tips to ensure you are prepared and safe in case of any fire emergency:

Make sure all exit and stairwell doors are marked, not locked or blocked by security bars.
It’s very important to know the locations of all exit stairs from your floor level, in case you need to get out in an emergency.
If there are not a number of adequate working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, contact your landlord.
If ever stuck inside your apartment and you can’t find any exit, try to stuff wet towels or sheets around the door and vents. This helps to keep the smoke out.
Here are some ways to ensure that you stay safe on a daily basis throughout your apartment:

Don’t leave cooking food unattended
Always ensure that your stove or oven is off if you’re not in the room or leaving your apartment. It’s also very, very important to never use your oven as a source to heat your home.
Make sure there’s a three feet distance with household combustibles from heating equipments: space heaters, fireplace, or wood stoves. In addition turn portable heaters off when leaving a room or going to bed.
Replace any worn electrical cords. Use power strips if additional outlets are needed.
If using an electric space heater, use a heavy-duty cord of 14-gauge wire or larger. Otherwise, avoid using one at all cost.
Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
Unless specified, don’t use electric space heaters in damp, wet areas.
It’s very important to always be aware of using the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.

In case you ever do find yourself in a fire:

Always check doors before opening them. If the door feels cool, open it slowly and stay low to the ground and leave the building as soon as possible. If the door is warm, use wet towels or beddings to seal the door and vets. Proceed to a window, and if there is no smoke outside, signal for help. If you are able to, call 9-1-1 and make them aware that you are trapped in the building.

Don’t ever use an elevator during a fire. Always use the stairs!

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Wayne Alarm: Security tips renters should know



Renters are just as likely to have burglary, a fire, and any other form of danger that any homeowner can experience as well. Renting a home can be an entirely different experience, however, since it all depends on the landlord. There is nothing to worry about, there are still options on securing your apartment!

  1. As most common entrances for burglary are through windows and back doors, it’s important to ensure they are closed at all time. If your door doesn’t have a deadbolt, and your landlord won’t provide one, see if you can install one yourself, or even a chain lock. If a deadbolt is installed, consider asking the landlord to replace it, provide them with a spare key if necessary.
  2. Strike plates, the metal plate on your door frame, are often found old and worn out in rental homes. This means it is not as secure as it once was. Instead, try replacing the screws with longer ones to secure it or replace it with a more secure plate altogether.

When living on the first floor of a building, windows should be your main priority. You want to always make sure all of your windows lock.

  1. Most importantly, however, don’t make it easier for thieves to hide.  Avoid having tall plants or shrubbery near your windows and use a rod on the tracks of a sliding window or sliding a glass door. Since these don’t require much maintenance or work to do in a rental, making it perfect for renters.
  2. Avoid placing your most valuable items near your windows. You don’t necessarily have to hide your valuables, but don’t place big screen TVs and such by the windows as it can intrigue thieves to take it.

Most importantly, make sure you’re aware of your neighbors and get to know them. Not only can they help in case of any emergency, but can also share any privacy concern that they might have. It also helps to keep a line of communication between your landlord and yourself, so you can feel comfortable in bringing any security concerns.

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Wayne Alarm: Questions to ask your landlord



There are often important questions that you should be asking that you could forget about. Develop a checklist and take it with you to ensure that everything is how you want it. Below are some important safety questions that you should be asking before you move in.

Are The Appliances Working Properly?

It is extremely frustrating when you move into a new apartment to just realize that important appliances aren’t working the way they should. When checking out a home or apartment make sure that the burner, refrigerator and water tanks work.

Are Draperies, Blinds Or Curtains Included?

Windows treatments aren’t always included when you move into a new place. Sometimes they are and other times they are not. Be sure to check because you don’t want strangers looking in your home and seeing all your valuables.

Have The Locks Been Updated?

You want to be sure that nobody else has a key to your home. Ask your landlord if the locks have been changed before you move in.

How Are The Surrounding Apartments?

Getting some insight about who your close neighbors will be can make a difference. If you can find this information out, ask about children, pets, activities, what your neighbors do for a living, and more. This is especially the case if you live in an apartment complex as you will be interacting with these people more.

How’s The Lighting?

Ask your landlord about lighting but we also advise you to check out the complex at night. Proper lighting can make a big difference.

Do you have a fire extinguisher?

Make sure that your apartment comes with a fire extinguisher. If it doesn’t have one then consider buying one in the case of an emergency.

Is there currently a security system at your new place? Security systems not only provide safety and security for you and your family, but also saves about 10-15% on your home insurance.  Today they are much more than just security systems. You can control your lights, thermostat, video cameras, and more all thru your Wayne Alarm System. If you don’t have one, call us today at 781-595-0000 or email

Asking simple but extremely important questions such as these can make a big difference. When you are moving into a new place you more than ever want to know that you’re safe.

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Saugus Town Meeting gets out the vote

A rendering of a possible new middle-high school.


SAUGUS — Residents will hit the polls to vote on $186 million in improvements to the town’s public schools on June 20.

Town Meeting convened for its fourth meeting since the beginning of the month Tuesday night to determine that residents will vote on a new $160 million middle-high school and $25 million worth of improvements to two existing schools for reuse as upper and lower elementary schools.

“I’m not going to have children in my household going to a new school unless my household appears on the front page of The National Enquirer,” said Precinct 4 Town Meeting Member Al Dinardo. “But I am a supporter of democracy.”

Today is the final day to register to vote in the June 20 special election. The Town Clerk’s office will remain open until 8 p.m.

The School Building Committee recently approved a total budget investment of $186 million, which includes an investment of $160 million for a proposed grades 6-12 combination middle and high school.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) will reimburse the town at a minimum rate of 53 percent — which is expected to increase — of eligible approved project costs.

In addition, a $25 million district-wide master plan would restructure the district to include an upper elementary school for grades 3-5 at the existing Belmonte Middle School and a lower elementary school for Pre-K through grade 2 at the Veterans Memorial Elementary School. The master plan is a town project and is not being pursued through the MSBA. The town’s share of the total project would be an estimated $118 million, bonded over a 30-year period.

Town Manager Scott Crabtree said the town’s recently earned S&P AA+ bond rating, which is the highest rating in the town’s history, will save taxpayers an estimated $7.2 million over the life of the bond.

A fact sheet provided by Crabtree details the cost to residents with average home value assessments. According to The Warren Group, in March, the median home value in Saugus was $374,950.

At $375,000, the cost would be $76 in 2018, $118 in 2019, and would continue gradually increasing until reaching $541 in 2024. The cost would then begin to gradually decline.

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Town Meeting members voted 42-2 in favor of both articles after more than an hour-and-a-half of discussion over whether individuals supported or opposed building a new high school.

Members Bill Brown and and Eugene Decareau, who voted against both articles, admitted there is a need for a new school, but argued that the plan in place is not right for the town.

“There is all kinds of construction going on — we’re building hotels, apartments, condos — and we don’t even have a West Side Fire Station,” said Decareau. “That’s public safety. Schools are important. So isn’t life and we’re going to have to address that.”

Brown said he was concerned with traffic and questioned whether the current high school site was the best location for a new school.

Jonathan McTague, a 2014 graduate of Saugus High School, described the need for improvements to his fellow Town Meeting members.

“We would be in class half the time and the teacher would ‘say some of you have to move because the ceiling is leaking,’” he said. “We were learning from books that didn’t include anything about our first black president. We don’t learn sitting in rows anymore being talked at by a teacher — we need those collaborative classroom spaces. Our community needs a chance, our youth needs a chance. Until we speak up, we’re not going to get anything that we need or deserve. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m a Town Meeting member.”

“This is pretty exciting news tonight,” said Crabtree. “Exciting things are happening here. We’ve been talking about a new high school for many years now — probably eight to 10 — even back when I was on the Board of Selectmen.

“My father was in the first graduating class there in 1956,” said Crabtree. “I look at that project and my grandfather and parents paid for that current school that’s there now. It’s been a long time since any of the generations have been able to contribute but it’s past its time. The needs of the community brought us into the current middle-high school model. I think that we’ve identified what the needs are in the community and what plan would address those needs. Ultimately the residents will decide the direction of the town.”

Town Meeting members did not reach a decision on the School Department’s budget or address any other articles before The Item’s deadline Tuesday night.

Bridget Turcotte can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Can we have nice things?

One Dollar Zone has opened on the Lynnway.


LYNN — Another dollar store has opened on the Lynnway as the city solidifies its place for discount retailers.

“Those kind of stores expand to locations that cost nothing to open, where they don’t pay their workers much and the demographics fit,” said Michael Tesler, a marketing lecturer at Bentley University.  “Lynn has lots of newer immigrants without much money who prefer dollar stores to Target and Walmart.”

Lynn already has its share of discount retailers. There are three Family Dollar shops, two Dollar Tree stores, and One Dollar Zone has opened its second store at the former Sleepy’s on the Lynnway. That doesn’t include a number of other independent cut-rate shops such as J & M Dollar Store.

Where else can you get glassware, candy, cleaning supplies, snacks, toys, party supplies, stationery, crafts, books, automotive products, pet supplies and seasonal goods for just $1 each?

Tesler said the immediate prospects of attracting upscale shops to Lynn seems remote.  MarketStreet, the premium open-air shopping destination in Lynnfield which boasts more than 80 shops and restaurants, offers the kind of retail some would like to see in Lynn, including Victoria’s Secret, Williams-Sonoma and Lucky Brand Jeans.

“Lynn lost its way, it has an image problem and the downtown deteriorated,” Tesler said.  “When I was a kid, my mother’s favorite shopping trip was to Hoffman’s in the downtown, and there used to be a place called Roland’s for ice cream and that was a magnet. But those kinds of retail attractions are missing today.”

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Still, it’s not an impossible dream to transform Lynn’s waterfront. Consider Assembly Square, renamed Assembly Row, in Somerville.

“Assembly Square should be an inspiration for Lynn,” Tesler said. “At one time, the area was infested with rats and lacked  access to the Mystic River. Today, it’s a new neighborhood with waterfront apartments, outlet shopping, a new stop on the MBTA’s Orange Line and office space for Partners HealthCare.

“Lynn needs a real strong community effort like in Somerville,” he said.

Mark Browne, a Boston commercial real estate broker, said the city’s perception is that of dollar stores, check cashing shops, and feeding the kids with fast food for $5.

“It’s very challenging to change people’s view of a city,” he said.

Still, he said Lynn is not the only community with an underdeveloped waterfront.

“Look at Providence’s waterfront,” he said. “It’s lined with oil tanks and refineries.”  

Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano, whose district includes the Lynnway, said the proliferation of dollar stores does not fit his idea of what the neighborhood could be.

“This is absolutely not the kind of development we want to see there,” he said.

While he prefers more upscale shops, Capano said those businesses do not want to be in Lynn. But he’s not sure how to fix it.

“I’d rather see a Guitar Center,” said Capano about the California-based retailer that calls itself the world’s largest musical instrument chain. “But they haven’t chosen to come here.”

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It’s clear, he said, Lynn residents wants these stores and that’s why they’re growing.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

More than a decade ago, the city collaborated with Sasaki Associates to create a master plan to guide development on the Lynnway. The Watertown-based planner determined the Lynnway waterfront could accommodate 4 million square feet of apartments and condominiums, 2 million square feet of retail, office, hotel and light manufacturing, 5,000 permanent jobs and generate $18 million in real estate tax revenues.

But so far, it’s still a dream. While three projects totaling $649 million are in the works that would bring waterfront apartments to the Lynnway, a shovel has yet to go into the ground.

And despite creation of the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development Team (LEAD) in late 2015, the high-powered working group intended to jumpstart development by aligning federal, state and local stakeholders, there’s little to show for its efforts.

Capano said he’s frustrated. But the city can’t do much if developers don’t come to the city with a proposal or if a landlord leases space to a dollar store.

“What do I say to the guy who has had empty building on the Lynnway for two years?” he asked. “For example, we don’t allow auto repair shops on the Lynnway, but we can’t stop one retailer and allow another. They would go to court and win.”

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development and Industrial Corp. (EDIC/Lynn), reiterated there’s not much the city can do to prevent such stores from opening.

“If we could write legislation to restrict those stores, I would be the first to do it,” he said. “They cheapen what we’re trying to do. But they are allowed as of right.”

Jen Cookke, a professor at the MIT Center for Real Estate, disagrees that the city is powerless.  She said communities have a number of tools at their disposal to guide development.

“The city holds a lot of the cards, but it takes courage for city leaders to uphold the master plan,” she said.  “Officials have the ability to create incentives such as tax breaks if the owner brings a mixed-use development. You just need one outlier and others will follow. For a community that is innovative and has vision, the sky’s the limit.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


Marshalling a plan for former school building


LYNN — City officials presented a plan to sell the former Thurgood Marshall Middle School on Porter Street on Thursday night, for a potential reuse that could include senior market-rate housing and a commercial component. But school officials opted to take no action.

City Council President Darren Cyr and James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, presented the option to the School Committee, requesting that the 19 Porter St. property be transferred to the Public Property Committee of the City Council to prepare a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit bids for its sale to a developer.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, chairwoman of the School Committee, said she was looking for the committee to make a motion to approve the transfer of the site, with a minimum asking price and timeline for when that sale could be complete. If those conditions weren’t met, the property would revert back to the School Committee.

School Committee members opted to set that minimum sales price at $4 million, and require the sale be completed within a year. The other condition set was that a School Committee member, John Ford, would sit on the RFP committee, the board responsible for preparing the document.

Ultimately, the School Committee opted to table a vote on the transfer of the property until their next meeting, upon a motion made by member Donna Coppola. Coppola said she wanted to take time to allow the committee’s attorney time to research the matter. Voting against the motion to table were Kennedy and Patricia Capano, vice-chair.

Cyr said the initial plan was to demolish the former Marshall Middle School, but a contractor reached out to city officials and wanted to buy it. His vision for the building wasn’t the vision the city had, but it let officials know there was interest in the property, Cyr said.

Lamanna said the cost to demolish the building is estimated at $2.2 million, which was part of the money bonded by the voters for the construction of the new Marshall Middle School, which opened last year on Brookline Street. If that money is not used for demolition, he said legally it could only be used for capital projects that could be bonded for 25 years, which would likely be for the construction of new buildings or additions on the school side. If the property is sold, he said the proceeds would go toward bondable projects more than five years. The proceeds would basically go into a reserve fund that would allow the city to plan ahead if, for example, a boiler in a building went.

Ford said he knows the issue is to sell the building and get some cash for the city in a cash drop situation, but he was hesitant about selling any more school property. He said there was some uncertainty about whether there would be any potential buyers, and he couldn’t see anybody paying big money for some place that’s going to cost lots of money to remediate.

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“We’re in a city where we’re land strapped,” Ford said. “We’re land poor. I don’t want to eliminate jobs on the city side. I don’t want to hurt anybody, but I really find myself in a position where it’s going to be hard for me to vote to give up any land.”

Kennedy was in favor of the transfer. For 25 years being in public life, she said she also disagreed with selling public land and felt that in most cases, it was better to bank that land.

“The reason why I’m capitulating on this particular piece of land, is that first of all it’s not big enough to build a new modern middle school, so that idea is right out,” Kennedy said. “So, it would only be usable for an elementary school or something of that size. It’s not appropriate for a police or a fire station or anything because it’s basically, it’s on a residential street.”

She said she was more comfortable letting go of this piece of land, because it wouldn’t even be appropriate for a new Cobbet or Tracy Elementary School, because it would be out of that general area of the city.

“And in light of the difficulties that we’re having making the budget come together in this year, it seems like a piece of land that may not be as valuable to the city as someplace that was located deeper into West Lynn,” Kennedy said.

Cyr said an RFP would potentially be to solicit bids for a mixed use, which would include senior market-rate apartments, as well as some commercial use, such as doctors’ offices that would cater to seniors. A small portion of those units, because of federal funding, could be allocated as affordable, he added. He said there is a true need for senior housing at marketable rate in Lynn.

Lamanna said the building was last assessed at $8 million. He said the Massachusetts School Building Authority funded the new Marshall Middle School because the assessment was that the old school on Porter Street was beyond repair. Cyr said it would cost upwards of $50 million to bring the former school up to today’s standards, for it to be restructured for a school use.

Cyr said he was a lot more hopeful after Thursday’s meeting that the transfer would be approved by the School Committee.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Hilltop sold for $17.2M

An artist’s rendering of the $100 million redevelopment of the former Hilltop Steak House site.


SAUGUS — AvalonBay Communities has closed on a deal to buy the Hilltop Steak House for $17.2 million, according to the Southern Essex County Registry of Deeds.

The seller, High Country Investor Inc., paid $10.1 million in 2004 for the restaurant that sits on a 14-acre site. The 52-year-old landmark family restaurant closed in 2013 after servings millions of patrons on Route 1.

Avalon’s purchase clears the way for a $100 million mixed-use development that will feature three four-story residential buildings and a one-story commercial structure. The complex will house 280 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, and clubhouse with an outdoor swimming pool. In addition, a fourth building will include 24,000 square feet of retail space .

Once permitting is in place, construction is expected to be completed in two years.

Michael Roberts, Avalon’s senior vice president of development, did not return a call seeking comment.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Mall Street fire

Firefighters respond to 72 Mall St.


LYNN — An electrical fire in a Mall Street apartment building forced tenants into the street Thursday.

Firefighters were called to the three-story brick property at 8:20 a.m. following an explosion in unit 17 on the third floor, which caused heavy smoke damage. The fire was extinguished in less than a half hour. No one was injured.  

Laurence Eures said he loaded the dishwasher and didn’t notice anything unusual.  “And then, it exploded so I don’t know what happened,” he said.  

Lynn District Fire Chief Robert Bourgeois said the fire is under investigation. The damage was limited to the unit.

We have a building inspector on the way to see if we can get the taeny back into the apartment,” he said Thursday morning.

District Fire Chief Stephen Archer praised Lynn police officer Josh Seaman for evacuating tenants from the building prior to the arrival of the fire crew.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


Swampscott gives green light to Greenwood


SWAMPSCOTT — Town officials have signed a purchase and sale agreement with Groom Construction for the redevelopment of the former Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue, which included a stipulation to dismiss the longstanding lawsuit the company had against the town.

Last month, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a proposal from Salem-based Groom Construction, which had submitted two concepts.

The Board of Selectmen entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the company for the construction of a 28-unit apartment or condominium project, which the board accepted as the primary concept, and adhered to the zoning approved at Town Meeting last year. In lieu of not offering any affordable housing, Groom would contribute $150,000 to the town’s affordable housing trust, officials said.

“I’m happy that we’ve been able to negotiate an agreement and we’ll be able to move forward on this chapter of our really long history with this building,” said Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen.

The company can switch to a 60-unit Chapter 40B affordable housing project, with 25 percent of the apartments or condominiums allocated as affordable, which the board approved as an alternative, if there is litigation from the neighbors for the primary concept, officials said.

Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said part of the purchase and sale agreement was contingent on having the lawsuit dismissed that the company had against the town. According to a Salem Superior Court document, the lawsuit has been dismissed “with prejudice, without costs and with each party waiving all rights of appeal.”

“I think that really resolves a potential risk to the town and any time we can avoid a potential lawsuit and situation that was a financial risk to the town, that’s a good thing,” Fitzgerald said.

The suit stemmed from an initial zoning change approved at Town Meeting, which allowed for a multi-family unit on the parcel. That was overturned in Massachusetts Land Court after neighbors filed suit in 2014, and zoning reverted back to single-family housing.

The litigation with Groom, which originally won approval for a 41-unit condominium project on the site in 2012, had to be settled before the town could proceed with the sale of the property.

Peter Kane, director of community development, said the purchase price for the property is $1.2 million, with the company responsible for costs to abate and demolish the entire structure.

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He said the company would be credited for those costs up to $1.2 million, which would offset the purchase price, but Groom has to have documentation for whatever is spent on abatement and demolition. He said the company has previously estimated those costs to be $1.3 million, which could technically make the purchase price zero dollars.

Kane said the purchase and sale agreement allows for the buyer to go through the permitting process before they close on the property. He said the permitting process can take up to six months.

Once that is complete, Kane said the company and town can close on the sale of the property, and then Groom can sign off on the land development agreement attached to the purchase and sale agreement, which puts the buyer in the position to develop the property in the way agreed to with the town.

Officials estimate the project will generate at least $325,000 annually in real estate tax revenue.

Selectman Peter Spellios has said the Chapter 40B alternative project would give the town protection against a potential spot zoning lawsuit from neighbors, as it is exempt from zoning, and therefore, harder to appeal. The proposal from Groom approved by the Selectmen last month was the company’s response to the town’s most recent Request for Proposals (RFP) for the project.

In January, the board decided to act upon the advice of Town Counsel and reissue the RFP with both options — conforming to Town Meeting zoning and a Chapter 40B project — when the Selectmen had been slated to approve or deny a proposal from Groom to convert the middle school into 28 luxury apartments or condominiums.

Officials said at the time that Town Counsel made the recommendation because neighbors had been clear they were again intending to bring litigation against the town. Neighbors were concerned that a 28-unit structure would be out of character with the existing neighborhood.

Kane said at this point the town has not received any notice of a lawsuit.

Tom Groom, owner of the company, could not be reached for comment.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.


Deal developing for River Works rail station

The River Works stop could be rebuilt to accommodate new residents and the public.


LYNN — The prospects of financing a new waterfront neighborhood improved late last week after the developer agreed to spend more than $1 million to expand the MBTA’s River Works Commuter Rail Station.

Charles Patsios, the Swampscott developer who is planning to transform the former General Electric Co. Gear Works property into a $500 million project that would include 1,160 apartments, has signed an agreement with the state to improve the modest station.

Under the terms of the deal, the River Works stop on the Newburyport/Rockport Line that is used only for GE workers, would be rebuilt to accommodate new residents and the public. It will be paid for by Patsios’ company, Lynnway Associates.

“Having the River Works station available for everyone makes this a truly transit-oriented development,” Patsios said. “Now, we can offer a 15-minute trip into Boston on the commuter rail and create a tremendous opportunity for people to discover Lynn at much less cost.”

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In exchange for usage rights, the developer has agreed to build an accessible station in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and improve access to the platforms. In addition to paying for construction and the cost to maintain the new buildings, the developer has agreed to start a “Transportation Improvement Fund” with a $500,000 deposit. The proceeds will be used for transportation improvements in at River Works and developers of future projects will be asked to contribute.

State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the partnership with Patsios creates a win-win for growth and transportation.

“Economic growth can be achieved by improving the quantity and quality of transportation options,” said Pollack in a statement. “We are pleased at the developer’s commitment to paying for physical improvements at River Works Station. We look forward to seeing the changes that will be taking place as a result of the investment that are sure to include increased new interest in living in Lynn, as the city will have an important new asset in its new permanent commuter rail station.”

Patsios bought the 65-acre GE property in 2014 for $7.6 million. His team has been working to secure permits from the city’s Inspectional Services Department and the state to build the project on the Saugus River. The approvals and the T stop will make it more likely to get financing for the project, Patsios said. “Plenty of people are interested in lending the money for the project,” he said. “Once we have the permits in hand, coupled with the addition of the T stop, we’re a go.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


Contaminated factory site up for sale

Waste and wetlands violations were found at 143 Lynnfield St. during an investigation by the city and state.


PEABODY — Just when city officials were starting to breathe a sigh of relief over cleanup efforts at the former L. Fine Factory property on Lynnfield Street, new questions are being raised about the possible sale of the 12.58-acre property.

Earlier this week, the property was advertised with a $3.1-million asking price by Engel and Volkers, a high-end real estate company out of Boston. The property is currently owned by Kevin Hoag/143 Lynnfield St. LLC, which bought the property for $600,000 in 2013.

But Ward 1 City Councilor Jon Turco is asking for a legal opinion as to whether the real estate company can advertise the potential for up to 120 multi-family units on the property.

“The problem that you have with this is that the advertisement states that they are going to develop 120 multi-family homes,” said Turco. “I’d like to refer that ad to the city solicitor and have a ruling on whether the city can prevent that from being advertised because this is actually an IL (light industry) zone and housing is not allowed.”

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Turco said he doesn’t understand how the realtor can advertise the parcel falsely and said he wants the city solicitor to rule whether the ad is legal or not.

“The site consists of (three) parcels totaling 12 acres with a 96,000 (square foot) former mill building located on site that is ideal for a multi-family conversion into brick and beam style apartments, one of the most sought after types of product by today’s renters,” the real estate ad states.

Rodney Scott, the Engel and Volkers agent listed on the real estate ad, could not be reached for comment.

The contaminated property has caused consternation for city officials for years. In March, a state-ordered cleanup of debris piles and oil tanks got underway. An Administrative Consent Order (ACO) issued by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection required the owner to remove more than 99 oil tanks from inside the building and several dozen more from outside the building within 90 days.

As cleanup of the site progresses, the property owners will have to continue to meet certain benchmarks throughout the year. Turco said that if the property is sold, the new owners would have to continue or complete any necessary cleanup efforts, but that a sale could delay the efforts to decontaminate the property in a timely manner.

Transforming the city’s waterfront


LYNN — It will take more than shops and high-rise apartments to transform the city’s waterfront, it will require parks and boardwalks.

That’s the word from James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank.

“You can’t just develop every single inch of waterfront,” he said. “You need to have open space and guarantee that the public will have access, those are state rules.”

Next month, a public hearing will be held at City Hall to share ideas for locating potential new parks, public spaces and a promenade along the waterfront.

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While a shovel has yet to get in the ground for any of the proposed projects to bring housing to the Lynnway, Cowdell assured members of the City Council’s Economic & Workforce Development Committee Tuesday that the former Beacon Chevrolet site is ready to go. It will feature 348 apartments with sweeping water and city views. The $80 million development is expected to break ground this year, he said.

“The open space meeting will ask questions like: Where should we put the green space, where is the public access and how will the city guarantee it?” Cowdell said. “It’s a chance for the public to let us know what they would like to see.”

The hearing will be Tuesday, May 2, in the City Council chamber.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Huss Court fire under investigation

A fire broke out on the first and second floors at 26 Huss Court.


LYNN — A fire in a six-family building at 26 Huss Court has left two of its apartments uninhabitable, displacing three residents.

Fire crews responded to 26 Huss Court shortly after 5 p.m., Lynn District Fire Chief Stephen Archer said. No injuries were reported. No Red Cross assistance was needed, and the displaced residents are making their own accommodations, he added.

Archer said the fire investigation unit is investigating the cause and origin of the fire, which was contained mostly to two apartments at the rear of the building on the first and second floors. He said the blaze may have started in the back of the building, on a rear porch that burned its way into the dwelling.

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Archer said the two units will be uninhabitable for awhile, but the other residents appeared to be able to get back into the building.

Apparatus responding to the fire included Engine 1, 3, and 7, and Ladder 2. He said Engine 9 would have been due to also respond, but it is out of service because of budget cuts. Engine 9 is on Boston Street, and would have been one of the first alarm companies on the fire.

“We are always concerned any time we have companies browned out and companies not available for the quick response that could make the difference in fire situations,” Archer said.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

Swampscott gives the Green(wood) light


SWAMPSCOTT — Town officials are moving forward with a proposal from Groom Construction to redevelop the shuttered former Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue.

On Wednesday night, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a proposal from Salem-based Groom Construction, which had submitted two concepts. The town will now enter into negotiations with the company.

The first concept, for 28 apartments or condominiums, adhered to the zoning approved at Town Meeting last spring. In lieu of not offering any affordable housing, Groom would contribute $150,000 to the town’s affordable housing trust. The second concept was for a 60-unit Chapter 40B affordable housing project, with 25 percent of the apartments or condominiums allocated as affordable.

Groom submitted a response to the most recent Request for Proposals issued by the town. It gave developers an option to submit a plan that conformed to the zoning approved at Town Meeting last spring for a single structure with 28 units on the site that had to adhere to an affordable housing component, or for a Chapter 40B affordable housing project. Developers also had the option to present proposals for both options.

The selectmen approved the proposal with the 28-unit building as the primary, and the 60-unit 40B project as an alternative, if there was litigation from the neighbors for the primary concept, according to Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the board of selectmen.

“I would very much like to proceed with the 28-unit building,” said Dreeben. “As much as I want to see more affordable housing in the town, I think 60 units and a larger building is not something I would like in that location. I would like to see it smaller.”

Neighbors have expressed concern that a 28-unit structure would be out of character with the existing neighborhood. They, along with other residents with an interest in the project, filed a citizen’s petition for Town Meeting in May, hoping to reuse the building. Citizens of Swampscott for Adaptive Reuse, want to privately fund $60,000 for a feasibility study to investigate all possible uses for the site. Residents urged the selectmen to delay their vote on the proposal before the article could be voted on.

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“A vote tonight is going to strip, in my opinion, it will strip the Town Meeting members’ right, as a legislative body, to vote on a pending matter,” said Benjamin Agoes, an abutter.

Agoes said the “soul of Swampscott is going to be decided by what ultimately sits on the top of Greenwood Avenue,” and the town’s civic pride, commitment to its Master Plan and respect for zoning bylaws was at stake.

“I’d like to see that (building) serve some public purpose,” said Richard Frenkel, who filed the citizen’s petition. “It’s a personal preference, but that’s the way I feel about it.”

Agoes questioned why the selectmen were representing Groom versus “the people,” with other residents in attendance saying it was blackmail.

“I’ve heard that numerous times,” said Dreeben. “We’re elected officials. We are charged with doing what we believe is in the best interest of the town, and the town is a whole entire town. We understand that our town has numerous neighborhoods and that people in different neighborhoods have different interests and priorities. And so, it is on our shoulders to look at the full picture of the town and take a balanced approach to development and preservation. And so, we must make that decision.

“That is what we must do and I have worked very hard to mitigate the negative impact of what I thought was too big a development without enough consideration for neighbors originally. But for arguing about whether you individually or 20 people are the people, versus the 14,000 people who live in the town, that’s not an argument I’m going to enter into.”

Laura Spathanas, board vice-chair, said the selectmen’s job is to honor Town Meeting votes, and “we haven’t done that.”

“This has been a long process,” Spathanas said. “I feel like it has not been rushed … We’ve tried to listen to everybody’s wants in the town … We are going to honor the Town Meeting vote. I agree that the smaller unit is something that would fit up there.”  

The proposal price from Groom is $1.2 million. Director of community development Peter Kane said the company requested that they be credited for costs associated with the demolition and abatement costs, which Groom estimated around that $1.2 million figure. He said the town has not agreed to that request, which will be part of negotiations.

In January, the selectmen decided to act upon the advice of Town Counsel and issue another RFP with both options. The board had been slated to either approve or deny a proposal from Groom Construction to convert the former middle school into 28 luxury apartments or condominiums, with three garage outbuildings on site.

Selectman Peter Spellios said at the time that Town Counsel recommended reissuing the RFP because the neighbors had been clear that they were intending to again bring litigation against the town if it went forward with Groom’s proposal. A 40B project, in which 25 percent of units would have to be affordable, would give the town protection against a potential spot zoning lawsuit from neighbors, as it is exempt from zoning, and therefore, harder to appeal, he said.

The board decided to table the proposal from Groom, leaving the option open for them to respond to the new RFP. The town is already in the midst of pending litigation with Groom, which originally won approval for a 41-unit condominium project on the site in 2012. That suit has to be settled before the town can proceed with the sale of the property.

The lawsuit stemmed from an initial zoning change approved at Town Meeting, which allowed for a multi-family unit on the parcel. That was overturned in Massachusetts Land Court after neighbors filed suit in 2014, and zoning reverted back to single-family housing.

Selectman Donald Hause said the town was trying to prevent the possibility of a much more dense 40B development than the one proposed. If there is no legal settlement and Groom wins the lawsuit, the company could proceed with the 28 units zoning allows or build a much larger 40B project, where the town would not have the same control.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.


Swampscott zones in on housing

A proposed zoning change would change residential (A-3) districts, which allow for multi-family units by special permit, to residential (A-2) districts, which would only allow single-family units in certain areas.


SWAMPSCOTT — Three zoning bylaw changes are up for approval at Town Meeting in May, with one aimed at increasing Swampscott’s affordable housing stock.

Town Meeting will be asked to amend the zoning bylaw by adding affordable housing regulations, or inclusionary housing regulations.

“The purpose of these regulations is to encourage the development of affordable housing in Swampscott,” reads the Town Meeting warrant article. “This bylaw is a direct recommendation that came out of the “Swampscott 2025: The Master Plan” and “Swampscott Housing Production Plan 2015.” Swampscott is significantly below the Commonwealth-required amount of affordable housing units (we’re at 3.75 percent where 10 percent of all units are required to meet the affordable housing definition).

“That percentage will drop significantly when the 2020 census numbers come out, due to the large amount of market- and luxury-rate housing units that have been built since 2010. This bylaw will help to ensure that developments of a certain size or larger contribute their fair share to the affordable housing inventory.”

Peter Kane, director of community development, said if a new project, or development, is a certain size, or more based on housing units, it triggers the requirement that at least 15 percent of its units be contributed as affordable. That would apply to a new multi-family development, with 10 units or more; a new subdivision, with six units or more; and an assisted living or independent living facility, with five units or more, he said.

Kane said if the zoning change is approved at Town Meeting, the requirement would only apply to developments proposed after that time. Developers can also pay a fee in lieu of offering affordable housing, which would go toward the town’s affordable housing trust.

He said many communities have adopted inclusionary housing regulations, because of the 10 percent state requirement. If a municipality is below that goal, it has to make efforts to reach it, and one is the inclusionary requirement.

Kane said there were 5,795 housing units in Swampscott, at the most recent census in 2010. There are 212 affordable housing units in town, and reaching 10 percent would require a total of 580 units. But, he said, those numbers will change in the upcoming census, as there have been lots of housing production in town in the past 10 years.

One of the major recent developments is Hanover Vinnin Square, which features 184 luxury apartments.

Another zoning change would change residential (A-3) districts, which allow up to eight multi-family units through a special permit process, to residential (A-2) districts, which would only allow single-family homes by right, in certain areas, Kane said.

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Kane said the down-zoning includes fewer than 80 properties, which includes the neighborhood of Rockland Street, King Street and Redington Street. The other section is the waterfront properties from the Fish House to Sandy Beach on Puritan Road. If the properties happen to be two-family or multi-family now, they would be grandfathered in and would not be required to switch to single-family, he added.

The down-zoning would allow property owners to tear down and build a single-family home again, Kane said. If the current property owner or future buyer wanted to tear down a single-family home or convert that to a two-family home, they wouldn’t be able to by changing the zoning, he added.

Kane said the reason the change is being proposed for those specific areas is that particular street network those properties are on is small, wouldn’t accommodate multi-family, and should be zoned for single-family use.

Town Meeting members will also be asked to amend zoning bylaws that would create a tourist lodging overlay district, and modify where hotels, motels, inns and a bed and breakfast are allowed by special permit. The overlay district identifies more areas where the lodgings are possible, and the purpose is to make Swampscott more of a tourist destination again, as reported previously in The Item. The current zoning bylaw has significant restrictions in place, making the creation of tourist lodging difficult in Swampscott, according to town documents.

The changed tourist lodging overlay district now includes properties in three small areas. The first one is the portion of Humphrey Street from the Lynn line to the monument. There are the properties on the east side of Puritan Road opposite Sandy Beach, and the properties from Phillips Beach to Preston Beach, Kane said.

There is currently only one bed and breakfast in town on Humphrey Street and there are no hotels, motels or inns. Swampscott has had hotels in its history, but the two largest ones, New Ocean House Hotel, and Hotel Preston, burned down in 1969 and 1957 respectively. A motel built where Hotel Preston used to be was wrecked in the blizzard of 1978, according to town historian Lou Gallo.

Informational meetings on the proposed zoning changes will be tonight at Swampscott High School at 7 and Thursday, April 27 at 7 p.m.  

Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.


Swampscott gets look at plans for Machon

Pictured is a rendering of the Senior Residences at the Machon.


SWAMPSCOTT — Draft schematic plans for the affordable senior housing redevelopment of the shuttered Machon Elementary School were presented to residents for the first time Thursday night.

Residents gathered at Swampscott High School to hear project plans presented by Peter Kane, director of community development, and the developers, B’nai B’rith Housing, represented by Susan Gittelman, executive director, and Holly Grace, senior project manager.

The schematic plans have to be approved by the Board of Selectmen, which is scheduled to vote on them on April 5. If approved, the developer will be able to finalize plans and submit them for the permit review process. Town officials said that B’nai B’rith will also be applying for tax credits associated with a low-income project.

“We’re really looking forward to this partnership with you, the neighborhood and the town,” Gittelman told the gathered residents. “We’re very excited about this.”

Town Meeting last May approved the selection and redevelopment proposal from B’nai B’rith Housing, a nonprofit that builds affordable homes for seniors in Greater Boston. The developer’s proposal is to build Senior Residences at the Machon, a complex at 35 Burpee Road that will include 38 one-bedroom units and 48 parking spaces. Each unit would have one parking space and 10 guest spaces would be available.

The town later entered into a land development agreement with B’nai B’rith. Under the terms of the deal, the nonprofit signed a 99-year ground lease for $500,000. The purchase includes an additional $50,000 for off-site improvements.

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B’nai B’rith plans to improve and reuse the 1920 building and demolish and replace the 1963 addition. Draft plans showed that the developer plans to add a three-story addition.

Grace said the overall design goal is for the building to be wheelchair accessible and accessible for people with disabilities. Three staff people will work regularly in the building, she said, including a resident services coordinator who will help residents access community-based services as needed as they age. She said those services could include home health aides, housekeeping and wellness activities.

“With this model, we tried to focus on and keep the mind and the body healthy,” Grace said. “The goal is to be able to have residents age in place in this building.”

An elevator will be located in the middle of the building for people with mobility concerns, Grace said. There will be three floors of apartments. She said the smallest apartment unit would be about 600 square feet, while some would be more than 700 square feet.

Residents in attendance were concerned there wouldn’t be adequate parking to accommodate all of the residents, arguing that there may be couples who live in the one-bedroom units rather than only single people.

Kane said with affordable senior housing, there could be residents, because of income level and the age demographic, that don’t have vehicles at all in the household. He said the residents may also have adult children or family members close by who they work with to get around.

“From our experience, I do not think it’s going to be an issue,” Gittelman said.

Other questions centered around financing. Grace said the projection was that the development would generate approximately $38,000 in real estate taxes for the first year of occupancy.

Gerard Perry, a Burpee Road resident, said he has been an opponent of the project, and wanted open space, but thinks the town has to move forward after the Town Meeting vote to approve the proposal. He requested that the developers keep the neighbors involved in the process to alleviate their concerns.

“Hopefully, we’ll make this a win for the whole town,” Perry said.

Jonathan Leamon, a Swampscott resident, asked how much 38 units of affordable housing would contribute to the town’s 3.7 percent stock. Kane said the current amount of affordable housing in the town’s inventory is 217 units, and another 38 would get the town to more than 4 percent, and closer to the state requirement of 10 percent.

Eight units are reserved for households at or below 30 percent of the average median income and 30 units are reserved for those at or below 60 percent. Preference will be given to residents over age 62. The maximum local preference allowed by the state is 70 percent.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

Let the transformation begin in Malden


MALDEN — The new owners of City Hall and the former police station will begin demolishing the buildings in mid-April with the former Pleasant Street station razed first to make way for new development.

Jefferson Apartment Group deposited $10 million with the city toward the site purchase. The former seat of city government and public safety has been fenced off and closed to pedestrian traffic, and demolition is expected to take about two weeks.  

With an August 2019 completion date, Jefferson’s transit-oriented development across the street from one of the busiest MBTA stations on the North Shore will include 325 apartments, retail space, more than 300 parking spaces and more than 40,000 square feet of condominium-based office space for city hall operations.

Jefferson plans to transform the site into a $30 million residential/commercial mixed-use development that will eventually include a permanent home for City Hall operations. Construction is scheduled to start in the spring.

Malden’s temporary seat of government now operates on Pleasant Street, four blocks from City Hall. The renewal project will build on other recent city achievements, including construction and opening of a new, state-of-the-art police station on Eastern Avenue.

The project clears the way for reconnecting Pleasant Street to create unimpeded traffic flow for the first time in 43 years.

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Another building on the site development site, First Church of Malden, will be demolished last with the razing slated to take place during the summer.

Near the end of this year, construction will begin on the new development and Jefferson officials said it will take 16-18 months. The first residential units planned at the site will be ready for use in April 2019 and the long-awaited reopening of Pleasant Street to through traffic will be realized.

Mayor Gary Christenson made the relocation of Malden City Hall and the reopening of Pleasant Street to vehicular traffic a major campaign pledge when he first ran for mayor.

Saugus residents boiling over water

Pictured is a run-off pipe that empties out behind Joe Carvalho’s house at 15 Laurine Road.


SAUGUS — Neighbors are overflowing with rage over the $100 million project planned for the former Hilltop Steak House site with much of the anger focused on flood control.

About two dozen residents, who are tired of removing excess water from the nearby brook from their basements, spoke out about their concerns at a Planning Board meeting Thursday night.

“I think your project should be ended. That’s my opinion,” said Gilway Street resident Patricia Battaglia. “It’s a flood zone. You cannot play with a flood zone. My father watched that brook like it was God. You cannot put more water in it.”

Battaglia said removing water from her property has become so costly, she has taken out a second mortgage on her home.

Tempers rose during the board meeting with Stephen Martorano, senior project manager at Bohler Engineering, unable to complete his presentation on the matter because residents continuosly interrupted, shouting over one another.

“I’m not an engineer but if we have four days of rain, we’re going to flood as soon as that brook rises,” said Lisa Lavargna, a Gilway Street neighbor. “It comes through our cement floors. I’m tired of vacuuming up water.”

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The former Hilltop site is being redeveloped by AvalonBay Communities, a Virginia-based real estate investment trust that develops luxury housing and owns more than 43,000 units in 10 states. Plans include turning 13.9 acres of the site into a mixed-use development with residential and retail space. The frontage will house one story of retail space, and three four-story residential buildings will be in the rear. The residential space will have a total of 280 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, and a one-story clubhouse with an outdoor swimming pool.

In a presentation last month, AvalonBay officials said they will put in new sewer, drain and water systems, with internal looping around the property, creating a good water supply to retail services and fire protection. Two existing service lines will go through conservation wetlands, which are being preserved in the back of the site.

A roof runoff going into an existing pipe will also help with drainage. The drainage will reuse the existing connection to Forest Street, but everything on-site will be brand new, and the development will change run-off away from the parking lot, said Michael Roberts, AvalonBay senior vice president of development.

One acre of landscaping will be strategically spread throughout the site. The added vegetation will help to create a sound buffer, improve the air quality and address the water drainage concerns of abutters. The team does not have plans to touch the brook but Roberts maintained that plans to construct the residential and retail community include reducing stormwater runoff, not adding to it.

The water will be treated to remove sediment accumulating in water runoff. Landscaping at the back of the property will absorb some of the excess water, Roberts said. It cannot be redirected towards Route 1 because of Massachusetts Department of Transportation requirements.

“We’re putting as much as we can to the front while complying with the regulations,” he said.

Martorano said his team has studied the property to see where the water is leaving the site. Once the project is completed, it is expected to generate about 130,000 gallons of sewage each day, about 25 percent of the existing system’s 500,000 gallon capacity, he said.

A neighborhood behind a small wooded area at the rear of the property collects the water that exits the property, according to neighbors. A drain leads to a shallow swale and, eventually, a brook. Both overflow with rain and snow events.

The stream runs through the backyard of Joe Carvalho, a Laurine Road resident who believes the 2-foot wide pipe running beneath Forrest Street was installed illegally more than 55 years ago.

“They were finding swizzle sticks and napkins from the restaurant in the brook,” he said. “(Hilltop owner) Frank Giuffrida used to maintain it and dredge it. He’s been gone quite a while.”

Carvalho is collecting signatures from his neighbors and sending a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I want a pipe to take the water right to the brook, rather than to the swale,” he said. “It’s not only the Hilltop site but also Bernie and Phyl’s up on the hill. I can’t see how (water from) 14 acres can pour into a system designed for a neighborhood.”

“We understand the property is there and you’re going to build on it but you’ve got to do something different,” said Marie Russo, a Milano Drive resident.

Roberts, who visited the property for a site walk with the Conservation Commission Friday, said he wanted to reach out to neighbors to better understand the problem.

“Every time we get together, we learn something new,” he said. “We have a better understanding of the floodplains — we need a better understanding of the problems.”

A site visit with the Planning Board is scheduled for March 11.

Bridget Turcotte can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Saugus staking out a Hilltop vision

Pictured is a rendering for the $100 million development planned for transforming the Hilltop Steak House site.


SAUGUS — With initial approvals in place for the redevelopment of the Hilltop Steak House site, residents are invited to tour the property alongside officials on March 11.

The Planning Board accepted a proposal for Davis Square Architects to review AvalonBay Communities’ master plan for a $100 million mixed-use development. Both the master plan review and site plan public hearings until their next meeting. Plans include turning 13.9 acres of the site into a residential and retail mecca. The frontage will house one-story retail space, and three four-story residential buildings will be in the rear.

The retail space will be a welcoming “front door” to the site, with a mixture of brick, stone and synthetic stucco, as well as various rooflines, said Michael Roberts, senior vice president of development with AvalonBay.

“It won’t be big box retail, but retail that’s of use to the surrounding area and designed to fit in with it,” he said.

Saugus setting table for former Hilltop

The site will be pedestrian-friendly, too, with multiple sidewalks and good connectivity, he said.

The residential space will have a total of 280 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, and a one-story clubhouse with an outdoor swimming pool.

Parking will be evenly distributed among the separate buildings, with additional parking under two residential buildings. Retaining walls will help reduce noise and light from headlight beams, and a deceleration lane going in and out of the lot will help the stream of traffic.

Also, one acre of landscaping will be strategically spread throughout the site. The added vegetation will help to create a sound buffer, improve the air quality and address one of the project’s biggest issues: the water drainage.

“The drainage and sewer infrastructure has some issues, and we have a plan to assess it,” Roberts said.

Vegetation along the perimeter and in the center of the site will slow down and increase the volume of water drainage.

From an overall drainage perspective, the nature of the development, and the green space provided, will greatly improve water drainage from site, he said.

“There will be less storm water draining from the site; we’ll improve the stormwater running from the site onto Forest Street, and will have an engineer look at what is specifically causing issues.”

AvalonBay will put in new sewer, drain and water systems, with internal looping around the property, creating a good water supply to retail services and fire protection. Two existing service lines will go through conservation wetlands, which are being preserved in the back of the site.

A roof runoff going into an existing pipe will also help with drainage. The drainage will reuse the existing connection to Forest Street, but everything on-site will be brand new, and the development will change run-off away from the parking lot, Roberts said.

Preserving wetlands and improving water drainage aren’t the only challenges offered by the site; there’s also a major gas line to contend with. Buildings on the property will be set back from a natural gas pipeline right of way.

Davis Square Architects will report their findings of the master plan to the Planning Board, which will use the findings to shape its decision on the proposal. Davis Square works for the town, but their review will be paid for by AvalonBay.

Gearing up plan for the Lynnway


LYNN — One of the last hurdles to win approval for a $500 million development designed to transform a desolate section of the Lynnway is scheduled for next week.

Engineers for Swampscott developer Charles Patsios will present plans for the 65-acre former General Electric Co. Gear Works property to the Lynn Conservation Commission  Tuesday night. The six-member panel’s mission is to protect wetlands and water resources.

The developer is seeking approval for the project to be built on the Saugus River. The commission can regulate or prohibit activities that may alter waterways.

When completed, the complex is expected to feature a 1,260-unit apartment tower, boutique retail, restaurants, a gym and new roads within walking distance to bike trails, beaches and the MBTA.

Michael Toomey, a commission member, said the group will review their plans and if the members have any questions, they will be raised at that meeting.

“At some point, we will most likely issue an order that lays down the conditions we expect them to follow to protect the waterway and comply with the state wetlands laws and local bylaws,” he said.

Patsios said he is not worried about satisfying the commission.

“There are no issues that I’m aware of,” he said. “It’s a matter of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. I don’t see any problems or obstacles.”

He said his team recently reached a milestone deal with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to expand the use of the nearby MBTA River Works Station at the GE plant on Western Avenue. Today, the T only stops at the factory on the Newburyport/Rockport Line for GE employees. But under an agreement in the works with MassDOT, the station would be expanded for all commuters, including the new residents at the Patsios project.

“We have a tentative agreement and MassDOT is working on the documents,” he said.  

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack could not immediately be reached for comment.

Patsios paid $7.6 million in 2014 to purchase the parcel from GE and has been working to win approval from a variety of city and state agencies ever since.

Of the three major projects in the works on the Lynnway, the Patsios project is the grandest and the priciest and could be a game changer for the city. It has the potential to unlock billions in gleaming residential and commercial real estate projects and transform the Lynnway.

Joseph O’Donnell, founder of Boston Culinary Group and Belmont Capital in Cambridge, is developing a 17-acre site for a $69 million luxury apartment project across the Lynnway that would include 250 units in a three-story building. At the other end of the Lynnway,  Louis Minicucci Jr. and Arthur Pappathanasi are working to turn the vacant Beacon Chevrolet site into an $80 million oceanfront apartment community. If approved, the project will include 348 apartments in two buildings across from North Shore Community College.

“As soon as we have all the approvals in place from the Conservation Commission, the city’s Inspectional Services Department and the state, we will then get to the financing,” Patsios said.

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Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Investigators: Fire fatality had stabbed himself

A firefighter is pictured at the scene of a Jan. 29 fatal fire on Beach Road in Lynn.


LYNN — Investigators have determined that the early morning Jan. 29 fatal fire on Beach Road was intentionally set by the victim, Alexander Joshua, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s office.

“The fire was intentionally set, we believe by the deceased,” said Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for the Essex County District Attorney’s office. “He had some self-inflicted injuries in addition to having set the home on fire. I don’t know if the injuries killed him or the fire. But we know that Mr. Joshua took his own life.”

Monahan said Joshua, 41, had self-inflicted stab wounds.

Joshua lived in the third floor apartment of the 20-unit building at 11 Beach Road. The three-alarm fire started in the apartment’s living room.

The blaze displaced 26 people. There were no other injuries.

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Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

Saugus setting table for former Hilltop

Pictured is a rendering for the $100 million development planned for transforming the Hilltop Steak House site.


SAUGUS — The Planning Board could sign off on AvalonBay Communities’ vision for the former Hilltop Steak House site at a meeting in two weeks.

The Virginia-based real estate investment trust presented a Master Plan to the board on Thursday night and will return on Feb. 16 for approval.

The plan represents a detailed vision for reusing the former Hilltop site and it is one of several proposed developments that have the potential to reshape Route 1’s appearance

A peer review consultant will be hired to critique the project before the plan is signed off.

The $100 million development includes 280 apartments in three buildings at the rear of the property and about 24,000 square feet of retail space in front.

Not only will the company need the board to approve a conceptual Master Plan, it will also need to submit a Site Plan Review detailing the property’s infrastructure before any work can begin. Once the project gains all necessary approvals, it is expected to be completed in two years.

In January, AvalonBay presented plans that include parking throughout and a parking garage at the back for the former site of the 52-year-old landmark family restaurant, which closed in 2013.

The apartment buildings are configured to form a landscaped courtyard between them with outdoor amenities including a pool, grilling stations, outdoor fireplaces and dog parks, according to Michael Roberts, AvalonBay senior vice-president of development.

There will be 16 studio, 122 one-bedroom and 142 two-bedroom apartments. Ten percent of the units will be affordable.

Each will have a modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and open-concept living space. Each will be equipped with a washer and dryer, a walk-in closet and a form of outdoor space — either a patio or balcony.

Both a full-service and fast-service restaurant will be on site, as well as businesses such as a dry cleaners, hair salon, coffee shop and pharmacy.

At Thursday night’s board meeting, Chairman Peter Rossetti, who represents High Country Investors, handed the meeting over to member Lawrence Shaver to avoid a conflict of interest.

High Country purchased the Hilltop property in 2004 for $10.1 million and subsequently sold the 14.2 acres to AvalonBay.

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Bridget Turcotte can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Saugus cooks up plan for Hilltop

Pictured is a rendering for the $100 million development planned for transforming the Hilltop Steak House site.


SAUGUS — AvalonBay is proposing keeping the Hilltop Steak House iconic cactus sign with modifications to fit the incoming development, a $100 million development that includes 280 apartments in three buildings at the rear of the property and about 24,000 square feet of retail space in front.

Plans include parking throughout and a parking garage at the back for the former site of the 52-year-old landmark family restaurant, which closed in 2013, according to Michael Roberts, AvalonBay Communities’ senior vice-president of development. The proposal was presented to the Town Manager’s Economic Development Committee Tuesday night.  

The apartment buildings are configured to form a landscaped courtyard between them with outdoor amenities including a pool, grilling stations, outdoor fireplaces and dog parks.

There will be 16 studio, 122 one-bedroom and 142 two-bedroom apartments with 1.62 parking spaces per unit, said Roberts.

Each will have a modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and open-concept living space. Each will be equipped with a washer and dryer, a walk-in closet and a form of outdoor space — either a patio or balcony.

Both a full-service and fast-service restaurant will be on site, as well as businesses such as a dry cleaners, hair salon, coffee shop and pharmacy.

There has been a lot of interest — we’ve been encouraged by that,” Roberts said.

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The Virginia-based real estate investment trust that develops luxury housing owns more than 43,000 units in 10 states. Its project at Assembly Row in Somerville features apartments with first-floor retail space including Legal’s on the Mystic, Outback Steakhouse, J.Crew Factory, Brooks Brothers and several others.

AvalonBay intends to use the liquor license issued to High Country Investors, which has gone unused since the restaurant closed. High Country purchased the property in 2004 for $10.1 million.

The project is one of the first to go through the new development process outlined by a zoning overlay district for Route 1 in 2015, said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. The process requires approval from several town boards and a public forum to develop a master plan.

“This has been a long process for the community and the residents of Saugus,” Crabtree said. “We recently completed a Housing Production Plan that identifies the needs of the community. Now we’re at the ground floor as partners with the developers of AvalonBay to work out the design and proposal to be able to meet the needs that have been identified.”

AvalonBay altered aspects of its original plans from 2016 to better meet the zoning requirements and housing needs by eliminating the 20 three-bedroom apartments from the complex. Ten percent of the units will be affordable. Designers also included walkways and a Route 1 buffer, along with other modifications, said Roberts.

A traffic study estimated the project will add three to five new vehicle trips per minute during peak hours, when 7,000 to 9,000 cars pass the property per hour. A deceleration lane will be installed to aid the flow of traffic.

It’s estimated the project will create about 200 permanent jobs and about 200 temporary jobs during construction. Ongoing economic benefits are expected to include real estate, sales and excise taxes and water and sewer utility fees totaling $2 million each year. One-time economic benefits, including permitting and infrastructure improvements, will be about $1.7 million, said Roberts.

Once the project gains all necessary approvals, it is expected to be completed in two years.

Bridget Turcotte can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

A sticky situation in Peabody

The Peabody/Lynn Elks Lodge on Oak Street in Peabody may be torn down to make room for an 80-unit apartment development.

A proposed 80-apartment development on Oak Street, at first glance, looks like a great opportunity for the city and for the Peabody/Lynn Elks Lodge.

The Lodge wants to sell land to a developer and make The Residences at O’Shea Field a reality. The city wants affordable housing and the developer appears intent on meeting that objective.

Everything about the proposal may look good from afar. But a closer look suggests city officials and the Residences’ developer could find themselves wading into a proverbial tar pit. Municipal department heads representing at least three different departments have raised concerns about the Oak Street site.

Peabody officials question Oak Street development

One concern involves potential flooding and it isn’t a concern to be taken lightly. Anyone who lives in Peabody or drives through it frequently knows how part of the city disappears underwater during a heavy rainstorm.

A second concern focuses on a lack of sufficient park and recreation space near the proposed development site. Compared to potential flooding, open space is probably a lesser concern if the developer can provide recreation amenities for tenants.

But other more serious concerns stand between the proposal and its approval by Peabody officials. School officials warn the Residences could increase overcrowding in local public schools with families moving into the apartment complex looking for schools to send their children.

This worry underscores a common tradeoff city and town officials are forced to weigh when they review big development projects. Large residential complexes bring tax dollars and jobs into communities. But the new development’s residents often include families who need classrooms for their kids.

Revere wrestled with this problem before signing off on the sprawling Overlook development project’s construction on Salem Street. Educators in that city warned North Revere lacked the classroom space to handle the education demands potentially posed by a big development.

But Peabody officials are not going to be able to simply point to the Residences’ plans and use school overcrowding as an excuse to shelve them.

The developer’s attorney said the Oak Street site has been “identified by the city itself as affordable housing.” That statement put Mayor Ted Bettencourt in a semi-defensive posture, forcing him to acknowledge the Oak Street site is included in the city 2013 affordable housing plan.

But Bettencourt, who is intent on having Peabody’s resurgence be a keystone in his legacy, noted in a letter to state officials that the proposed development’s size is much larger than the type of development the city envisions on Oak Street.

No city wants to be perceived as a tough place for developers to do business. No community in Massachusetts wants to be accused of being two-faced when it comes to affordable housing. The Residences proposal is in an early enough discussion stage to allow city officials and the developer to open discussions on a compromise. But one false step could send the city sinking into an expensive legal quagmire

Housing advocate inspires scholarship

Eleanor Wessell, 85, is pictured at a ceremony announcing an annual scholarship named in her honor for one St. Mary’s student from King’s Lynne housing complex.


LYNN — Forty years after they reinvented standards for affordable housing in the city, Joe Corcoran and Eleanor Wessell are offering more help for low-income residents.

In recognition for her work with the development of the King’s Lynne housing complex, Corcoran, chairman of Corcoran Jennison Development Company, is endowing a full scholarship to St. Mary’s High School to a King’s Lynne resident in Wessell’s name.

Grace Cotter Regan, head of St. Mary’s, said the award will include full tuition, which is $12,950, plus an iPad and textbooks. She estimates it will be more than $14,000.

The scholarship can be renewed each year as long the student maintains his or her grade point average.

“I lived in America Park, which was public housing,” said Wessell. “It was hard to live in public housing. I knew I had to do something about it.”

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When she married her late husband Daniel, she also welcomed his five children. Together they had four more and quickly became a family of 11. Though they worked, they struggled financially, she said.

The West Lynn housing project was a difficult place to live, she said. Though she added she was never afraid of the people, only the large crowds of dogs.

Wessell, now 85, advocated for better quality affordable housing and was involved in the planning and redevelopment of the housing project into King’s Lynne, the first mixed-income housing complex in the country. She worked alongside Corcoran.

In 1970, the America Park housing project was considered one of the worst housing projects in the state. Of the original 408 units, 25 percent were boarded up and condemned, according to the company’s website.

In 1974, it became the country’s first housing project to be converted from private to public. It was the first 50-50 partnership agreement between a private developer and public housing residents, and the first development to incorporate both low-income housing and market-rate units

“Everybody gives us a lot of credit,” said Corcoran. “But I give all the credit to (Wessell). It was Eleanor who was unbelievable and determined. I wanted her to get this recognition because she was such a wonderful part of it.”

Corcoran reflected on a convention the pair attended in Florida.

“A guy said ‘You can never do mixed-income; it would never work out,” he said. “We told him that that just wasn’t true. We started doing it and we’ve been doing it ever since.”

Wessell held on to the premise that the low-income units should be integrated with moderate and market-rate housing. She wouldn’t allow developers to isolate them to one building.

Of 441 units, one-third are affordable. As conditions change, tenants can move from low-income to market rate, and vise versa. She believes all tenants should be treated the same and have equal opportunities.

“When I was a kid, my mother wanted me to go to St. Jeans but we couldn’t afford it,” she said. “So I went to public school and I liked it. That was fine. But I think this is a great thing for a kid who wants to go to a Catholic school. I think it’s wonderful and I’m glad my name is on it.”

Bridget Turcotte can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte