First look at what could rise riverside in place of Save the Children HQ
Published 4:30 pm, Tuesday, December 8, 2015
A conceptual look at what might be in store for the former Save the Children’s property — a major piece in the puzzle of downtown’s future revitalization — emerged at the Planning and Zoning Commission’s meeting last week.
Though plans for the Wilton Road property were not formally on the agenda, P&Z members got a preview of what may be in store for the site when a lawyer for the owners revealed outlines for a new development taking shape.
Under the umbrella of a proposed “Riverwalk District” text amendment that would be applied to the site, lawyer William Fitzpatrick revealed a tentative development plan for 54 Wilton Road, the could include moving of an old house at 1 Wilton Road onto the property, allowing creation of a left-turn lane from southbound Wilton Road at the Post Road.
STC Green LLC, the development group that includes David Adam Realty — co-developers of the Bedford Square project — envisions an office building and an 18-unit luxury apartment building at the 2.6-acre former Save the Children site, currently zoned a General Business District. The plan includes extending the existing boardwalk on the western side of the river and building a pedestrian bridge across the water to Parker-Harding Plaza.
It is the P&Z’s practice, however, when the commission considers an amendment to zoning statutes that it reviews the proposal in broad terms and not entertain detailed plans for a specific property.
“I’m willing to be liberal with the demonstration plan…” Chairman Chip Stephens said of the presentation. “My concern is that throughout this presentation so far … we’re talking about 54 Wilton Road.”
“We’re being very specific as to what we’re looking at here … Tell me, how is this not spot zoning?” he said.
“They’re not asking to re-zone anything,” Larry Bradley, the zoning director said, noting the town attorney reviewed the amendment proposal and did not raise questions.
“I just question text amendments like this, and should this be here or should this be at the (Zoning Board of Appeals)?” Stephens said.
“I think it is of value for the commission to see the conceptual plans relative of this site,” said Fitzpatrick, who was joined by architect David Beem, whose firm Roger Ferris & Partners LLC at 11 Wilton Road would be affected by the widening Wilton Road.
“The existing Save the Children would be removed,” Beem said, noting that 1 Wilton Road, which was recently purchased by Waldman, will need to be moved or leveled in order to widen the street.
“It will include the participation of the neighboring property owner,” he said, referring to 11 Wilton Road.
Text Amendment 703 officially calls for creation of a new Riverwalk District zone, which would be applicable only to properties with structures that total a minimum of 80,000 square feet in coverage, which the applicant said is designed to restrict other projects from unintentionally being subject to requirements of this zone.
The amendment would allow for a height of up to 48 feet for a residential building, which promoted the fire chief and fire marshal to express concern to Bradley.
“We feel strongly that the scale of the residential building … is, in this conceptual demonstration plan, entirely appropriate,” Beem said.
“It certainly feels as if we’re drifting away from the notion of the text amendment,” P&Z member Alan Hodge said.
“Is what you’re showing to us is what would result from granting this ... if we were to approve this text amendment?” he said.
“It’s just one way these regulations may be interpreted,” Fitzpatrick said, calling the presentation “for demonstration purposes only.”
“You need to look at where it’s going and what they may be doing … We do have a downtown plan that talks about some of the things that they want to do,” he said.
“There are bendings that need to be done for some historic preservation,” Mandell said, noting that the house at 1 Wilton Road would be moved and preserved. “They’re giving us something, giving us the Riverwalk.”
“While a text amendment isn’t normally done that way, that’s the way we have to look at it,” he said.
Fitzpatrick said an “amalgamation” was required to move this project forward. “There were many different pieces that had to come together (and) it just wasn’t feasible from my standpoint to just take the GBD zone and amend it,” he said.
“It hits kind of the buttons that we had heard were of real concern…” said David Waldman, a partner with STC Green. “We’d like to move this forward.”
The P&Z plans formal hearings on the Riverwalk District in the future.