By Eliza Rosenberry
After acquiring the Crosby Center business park two years ago, Newton-based National Development now wants to build a hotel and expand parking on the site, but the park’s largest tenant, AspenTech, is fighting the proposal.
At an October 25 Planning Board hearing, representatives of AspenTech said the new design would disturb their office park’s serene, wooded atmosphere.
“This is a very important project from our perspective,” said attorney Martin Healy on behalf of AspenTech, citing a letter submitted to the Planning Board by Aspen President and CEO Antonio Pietri. “Aspen moved here from Burlington and was attracted to this campus by very beautiful existing vegetation that’s on the campus….
They’re very proud of how beautiful their office environment is.”
Landscape architect Robert Weidknecht of Beals + Thomas, who was hired by AspenTech to advise on the proposal, noted that many older trees are likely to be cut down, while those remaining are weaker, skinnier trees with “umbrella-like” branch structures.
National Development argued that the plan will improve the park’s environment and will add pedestrian pathways to create a “campus atmosphere,” in response to what the developer is seeing elsewhere in the marketplace.
Originally brought before the Planning Board in January, the proposal has been revised to address concerns regarding the height and positioning of the hotel building. But Planning Board members still said the unique character of the park which originally attracted Aspen will be eliminated with the new design.
“It’s razing the entire landscape,” commented Board member Amy Lloyd. “I think you can do better… It’s a slash and burn approach, and I can’t support that part of it.”
National Development countered that natural steep sloping on the property does not meet ADA guidelines; therefore, to add pedestrian pathways, there is a need to clear and level parts of the property.
“There may not be a meeting of the minds here,” acknowledged Charles Landry of National Development. “We’ve spent the last six months trying to work with [Aspen] on a plan that would work for both of us, and unfortunately — I think they would say the same — we just weren’t quite able to get there.”
Planning Board Chair Jeff Cohen recused himself from the hearing because his employer, Stantec, was involved in the project.
The Board asked National Development to return for a continued public hearing on November 15 with revisions regarding landscaping and parking, as well as ways to counter the increased need for parking, including bike racks, bike and car sharing, and shuttle services.
Regardless of how plan negotiations proceed, Landry said, “we’re bound to each other for another seven or eight years,” the remaining duration of Aspen’s lease with Crosby Center.