By Kim Siebert MacPhail
54 Loomis Street owner David Cerundolo and the Tambone Investment Group design team returned to the Planning Board on Tuesday night for a public hearing on plans to redevelop the current one-building industrial property into a two-building mixed use, retail/residential site. 54 Loomis is the first lot to be redeveloped in the Depot Park Overlay District and, as such, has undergone considerable scrutiny by the neighborhood and the Planning Board. While many in attendance found improvements in the exterior designs unveiled on Tuesday, the majority –including all Planning Board members—said that the proposed classical style did not match the neighborhood’s “vernacular,” as expressed by the surrounding homes and depot buildings.
[For the most recent Bedford Citizen article on the 54 Loomis Street proposal, see: http://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2013/02/28/54-loomis-street-development-plan-returns-to-planning-board-for-public-hearing/ ]
David Cerundolo opened the presentation saying that he and his wife have owned the 54 Loomis Street property for 20 years. The revised plans about to be presented, Cerundolo said, were “in accordance with the Bedford Depot Park mixed-use, Overlay District.”
“As you know, the mixed-use district was created on April 4, 2006, at Town Meeting by the voters of Bedford in an overwhelmingly affirmative vote, [and] 93% of those voters said they would like to transform an area of aging and progressively empty warehouses into something better,” Cerundolo continued.
“That was seven years ago and we’re finally now looking at the first project to make this proposal a reality. We all want to make sure we’re doing this the right way, that’s why we keep coming back here; and we hope now to satisfy that 93% without making them wait much longer,” Cerundolo concluded.
Richard Tambone of the Tambone Investment Group then addressed the audience and the Planning Board, thanking everyone for working with him to provide feedback that has been subsequently been translated into design changes. He reported that, because of the neighborhood’s concerns about renting versus ownership, his group has “spent the last 60 days speaking with numerous banks,” finding one bank that is willing to finance condominiums rather than apartments.
“We’ve been fortunate to find one institution willing to work with us,” Tambone said. “They’ll start the project with us and when we develop it, we’ll market the front building [along Loomis Street] as condos. If the market dictates, we can make the second [building] a condominium project as well.”
The number of residential units began as 30 last fall in one large three-story building but is now planned as two smaller structures containing a total of 23 units: 4 two-bedroom townhouses are proposed for the two-story Loomis Street building and 16 units—8 two-bedroom and 11 one-bedroom—in the second 2½ story building in the rear of the property.
Other changes made to the project based on community input include more exterior green space, more direct access to the bike path and, across the street, to the narrow gauge trail to Fawn Lake; 3,000 square feet of retail space and bigger store front windows along the street; enhanced traffic and pedestrian flow and circulation around the building; elimination of a detention pond in favor of an underground infiltration system; and more benches and landscaping.
Despite the design team’s assertion that it had tried to keep the scale of the project in harmony with the surrounding neighborhood, abutters disagreed that the height and mass of the proposed buildings had been sufficiently diminished. Traffic and parking were again seen as concerns, particularly by those living nearby who have young children. Additionally, the classic-but-generic style of the proposed buildings was deemed unsatisfactory, given the Victorian-era flavor of the depot station, freight house and other adjacent buildings.
In addition, the project’s design renditions were compared unfavorably with the description of the vision for the Depot Park Overlay District, which seeks to establish a “village-style mix of retail, restaurants, offices, and multi-family housing” and to “enhance the Depot’s unique identity and development potential as a focal point for bicycle- and pedestrian-related uses” that reduce automobile dependency and traffic congestion.
In final comments, Planning Board members agreed with the Loomis Street neighborhood that the project was still not ready for approval and suggested to the design team that the hearing be continued at the May 1 Planning Board meeting.
“I appreciate that it’s a very challenging lot, that it’s a challenging set of requirements, and that it’s really difficult to be the early adopter in a new district,” said newly-elected Planning Board member Amy Lloyd. “But I don’t think we’re there yet.
“I think that it needs to be something that’s very specific to this neighborhood, in Bedford—not a mall-type building that could be anywhere,” Lloyd continued. “It’s not as much [a] matter of architectural distinctiveness as it is about being cohesive with the whole district. I want to see a clear benefit to Bedford, not just a parcel of land that would be commercially viable. I want it to be commercially viable, I want it to see it developed in an appropriate way, but I think it also needs to have a clear benefit to the neighborhood and to the town.”