Business, Local Government and Politics, News

Development under review in Swampscott

SWAMPSCOTT — The Planning Board took another look at a multi-use project brought forward by the Broadway Capital Construction LLC at 12 Pine St. at its meeting Monday night, ultimately advising the developer to reconsider the size and density of the proposed building.

One of the developers, Mikael Vienneau, architect of Peter Pitman of Pitman & Wardley Associates, LLC, and Attorney Bill Quinn presented to the board their updated project with the changes that were incorporated after the first review at the end of last month.

Broadway Capital Construction LLC was originally proposing a mixed-use, three-story building with 33 housing units and commercial space on the first floor. Vienneau said that the new design addressed the Planning Board’s concerns and the neighborhood feedback.

“Our goal was to reduce the overall footprint of the building to make it jive more with the neighborhood, by essentially reducing the overall number of units and cutting down on the top level of the building to open up the space a little bit more, provide more green space and allow the development to blend better with the neighborhood,” said Vienneau.

Further describing the changes made to the proposed project, Pitman said that the number of units decreased to 29 with 30 parking spaces on the first level under the apartments instead of 33 in exchange for more green space. The new design occupied 85 percent of the lot compared to 95 percent in the previous version.

Commercial space was reduced by 600 square feet and the roof deck was reduced by 500 square feet. Some units were taken off of the sides of the building on the top (third) floor to make it look visually smaller. 

Some further interior and exterior improvements included inside and outdoor bike racks, a redesigned trash and recycling area, and trees along the sidewalk around the perimeter of the property. The roof deck will have some screening elements and plants, Pitman said.

The project provides for mostly one-bedroom apartments as well as some two-bedrooms and a couple of studios. The developer has not yet decided if the units would be for rent or for sale as condos, but the team expects a studio to rent for $1,600 if they go that route.

The project’s representatives asked the Planning Board to share its recommendations instead of conducting a full site-plan review.

Board Chair Angela Ippolito asked the developer what he was envisioning for the property when he acquired it and how he saw his project benefiting the town.

“The need for housing is there,” said Vienneau.

He said that such housing, which is close to the MBTA Commuter Rail, the beach and the bike path, would be intriguing  to people who want a space of their own for the first time or are elderly. 

Vienneau viewed the property as a pocket of commercial properties in a residential area, he said, and it would be better for the area if the project contained housing to standardize the zoning.

“We don’t like to downzone anything if we don’t have to, and that side of the town could use some business spaces,” said Ippolito. 

In her opinion, she said, the neighborhood would benefit from a small market place with a food mart, a liquor store or an eatery, or an open-court setting that would offer more amenities for the residents.

The overall opinion of the board members was that the project, as presented at the Monday meeting, was too dense and tall for the neighborhood and would put an additional strain on the town’s police and fire departments.

“I think this size is not unreasonable based on what I’ve seen,” said Vienneau.

From his experience, he said, 50 percent of residents at such developments use public transportation and smaller units are attractive to couples, which would not put an extra burden on the school district.

Some board members understood how this project could check off boxes which were laid out in the town’s housing plan, with smaller units being more affordable for some people and fulfilling the state recommendation for more developments around the train station. The developer was also advised to look into other residential options like townhouses or row houses or flipping the residential- to commercial-space ratio.

“It is a challenging spot for a mixed use, both to meet parking requirements for residential units and commercial property,” Pitman said. “We’ve done several in Salem, Beverly and even Boston that either had a big relief for parking or had a large parking lot adjacent to them.”

The townhouse lot would only fit six parking spots, Pitman said, and the developers would have to seek relief anyway.

“We appreciate this opinion, but we are really looking to put a residential development,” Vienneau said.

To continue with the review process, the developers will need to further update and complete the application and come back to the Planning Board for a full site-plan review before they can present the project to the Zoning Board of Appeals.  

More Stories From Swampscott