Building plans gain momentum for Greenwood Avenue middle school

The funding for the study, which is projected to take three to six months, was approved by Town Meeting in May. (Item File Photo)

SWAMPSCOTT — Plans for the redevelopment of the shuttered former Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue continue to move forward.

The Board of Selectmen are scheduled to vote on the architectural peer review for the 28-unit project on Wednesday. If approved, the proposed development will move toward site plan review before the Planning Board, one of the final steps before demolition and construction can begin.

The Board of Selectmen previously entered into a purchase and sale agreement with Groom Construction to build a 28-unit apartment or condominium project, which the board accepted as the primary concept — the Salem-based company had submitted two concepts in its proposal —and adhered to the zoning approved at Town Meeting last year.

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.

Presenting and discussing architectural plans at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting were Tom Groom, owner of the company, and his architect, Jim Velleco. They discussed the challenge of doing a better job of blending into the neighborhood with the proposed structure. Earth tones will be used on the building.

Peter Kane, director community development, said the proposed structure is 60 percent of the massing of the existing school building. The former middle school building is 106,000 square feet, and the new structure would be 40 percent less, or about 60,000 square feet.

Kane said there will potentially be 57 parking spaces, as the developer was required to submit a plan with two spaces per unit. The development also includes three small separate garages. He said a lot of the parking would be in the lower level of the main building.

Although the vote on the architectural review was continued to Wednesday, at the request of a resident at the previous Board of Selectmen meeting, the board gave authorization for Groom to apply to get the site plan review process started.

Kane said if site plan review is approved, Groom can apply for a building permit, which is the final step needed before demolition and construction can begin. As of last week, he said the company has not applied for site plan review, but is expected to relatively soon.

With site plan review, Kane said the Planning Board has to make sure the project conforms to the zoning requirements, but also has to make an area of other findings, including whether the project complies with the neighborhood’s character.

Besides architectural review and site plan review approval, Groom also needs to submit a construction management plan, which has to be approved before the issuance of a building permit.

Peter Spellios, a selectman, said the construction management plan deals with construction logistics — how the neighborhood and project will coexist during construction. He said the company is also required to submit a development impact statement.

Groom said the project timetable, after the permitting process, is about 24 months. Work will begin with asbestos removal. Demolition is about four to six weeks. Blasting will take a couple of weeks. Construction will be 12 to 16 months.

Neighbors in attendance at the recent selectmen meeting were more positive about the project than in the past, but wanted to make sure that they were informed of progress throughout. Groom suggested starting an email list so neighbors could be updated on the project schedule.

Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said last week that it will be exciting to see the project move forward, and that it has been an interactive process.

The purchase and sale agreement, which was approved by the selectmen in April, was contingent upon having the lawsuit dismissed that Groom had against the town.

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.

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