The Essex Jct. Planning Commission will hear plans next week for a massive downtown development project for the southern slice of the Five Corners.
A conceptual master plan submitted by BlackRock Construction and McEwing Services shows four new four-story buildings plotted across 10.7 acres between Park and Maple Street split by the railroad. Three are sited behind the horseshoe-shaped building at 34 Park St., and one is beside the Lincoln Inn. Two will be mixed-use, while the others are solely residential.
It’s still early in the process, however. The developers need a site plan review for each building prior to construction, and the application shows an estimated completion date of 2022. But next Thursday’s hearing offers a first look at the most recent high-density project within the village center district.
“We feel that the design lends itself to helping create a true village center destination that will be a key part of the hub of Essex Jct. for generations to come,” wrote Benjamin Avery, BlackRock’s principal developer, in a project narrative.
Avery did not return multiple requests for interview, but his narrative offers some details.
The full development includes at least 174 housing units, with the potential for 100 more through additions or further redevelopment. Ten percent of those initial units will be designated affordable, the rest a mix of market-rate and workforce, or units between 500 and 700 square feet.
The project will offer about 135 spaces of garage or underground parking, while the remainder will be on- and off-street parking for a total of 340.
The land development code has no parking requirements for the village center district, but the PC can still require parking for site plan approval.
Avery said general development standards that call for two spaces per unit would be “onerous” for the workforce units since those typically attract
single occupants who often use public transportation. He also noted the project’s proposed pedestrian network, saying he expects to ask for a waiver down to 1.5 spaces per unit.
Community development director Robin Pierce said the village will determine the necessary parking for each building during site plan reviews.
The plans reference some notable community spaces — some open to the public, some reserved for tenants. Those include a “pocket park” and streetscape improvements with seating along Maple Street; a small community park with recreation amenities along the Crescent Connector; streetscape with setbacks for seating and landscaping along the new road; and residential community spaces, like raised garden beds, a community barbeque area and a pool.
Next week’s hearing comes a month after the village PC approved two site plans for the opposite side of Park Street for a total of 71 apartments. Neighbors of those projects have repeatedly voiced concerns over traffic in Five Corners, which is already notorious for its lengthy backups during rush hour.
Assuming a mix of residential, office, restaurant and retail use, Avery estimates this new project would create about 3,000 daily vehicle trips, with peak morning and evening estimates of about 300 and 240, respectively.
Though that would add to the already notorious daily logjam, the site plans account for what’s long been considered a release valve for that traffic: the Crescent Connector, which connects three of the five feeder roads and offers a bypass to the intersection.
Pierce said after several delays, that project should be out to bid by this winter for a spring 2019 construction.