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Historical Commission weighs in on Hopkinton Drug property, which is targeted for mixed-use development

by | Mar 6, 2024 | Featured: News, News

The Historical Commission at its meeting Tuesday night weighed in on properties belonging to the owner of the Hopkinton Drug building, which is targeted to be replaced by a mixed-use development that would include retail and residential units.

The commission voted 4-1 that 6 Cedar Street  — a house located next to Hopkinton Drug and also owned by Dennis Katz— was “preferably preserved.” But because of the house’s poor physical condition and the strength of the developer’s proposal, it decided to issue a demolition delay of up to 18 months pending review of the project by the Planning Board.

The hearing on the proposed project also included 48-52 Main Street. the Hopkinton Drug/Hopkinton Card and Gift Shop building. This is a prime retail location in the heart of downtown Hopkinton.

Neil Bingham represented Boston-based Parsons Commercial Group, which is under agreement to purchase the properties. Brendan Giblin, John Parsons and Richard Rankin from the development team also attended the meeting.

Bingham said the group is “thinking about alternative uses for 6 Cedar Street” given the condition of the vacant home. Combining the properties would make it “a more fiscally capable project.”

Although the project is in its initial design stages, underground parking is planned. It intends to “incorporate elements of yesteryear” in the Main Street façade, such as cornices and arch windows. The developers hope to jump-start the commercial area, returning it to the prominence it had experienced when there was a boot factory and other industrial sites there. Street trees and benches will be featured.

Discussion revolved around 6 Cedar Street, a 19th-century structure, as to whether it was historically significant and worthy of preservation. Parsons said he visited the home more than once “and did not feel particularly safe.”

Kathleen Reale owns the abutting property at 8 Cedar Street. She described the condition of the home at 6 Cedar Street as “too far gone,” a fire hazard and infested with animals. It has been used for storage, she said.

Commission member Stacey Spies confirmed the presence of animals she witnessed on a site visit. She also noted that the stairs were ladder-like and not accessible.

“For the past 10 years, I’ve been trying to get this building gone,” Reale explained. “I would really like to see this building demolished, because I do not think there’s a way to save it.”

Chuck Joseph spoke of the stellar reputation of the developer, having worked with the group on Davenport Village and other properties. He noted that the proposed project would be in line with the town’s master plan.

The commission voted 5-0 that 48-52 Main Street is “not historically significant,”  but that 6 Cedar Street is.

Discussion turned to whether it was should be “preferably preserved.” The commission voted  4-1 that the house is preferably preserved and that a demolition delay of up to 18 months be imposed, pending a review of the project by the Planning Board. This would give the development team time to form more detailed plans. Khwaja Ehsan was the lone opposing vote.

Demolition delays are invoked for properties that are at least 75 years old, in whole or in part. Members expressed support for the project and said the demolition delay would be rescinded if the Planning Board votes to approve the project.

In an interview with the Independent Wednesday afternoon, Katz said he enjoyed his time in Hopkinton as the property owner.

“I’m getting older, and it was time for me to sell,” he said. “Their plans look pretty good. It looks like it will be a nice high-end product.”

He added that his understanding is that the number of units has been scaled back from 54 to 40, but noted the plans haven’t been finalized.

Hayden Rowe billboards deemed ‘not historically significant’

The commission voted 4-1 that two old billboards on the former Connelly Farms property, on Hayden Rowe Street just north of College Street, were not considered historic, instead referring to them as “iconic.” Spies was the lone dissenting vote.

Ed Harrow, chair of the Open Space Preservation and a Conservation Commission member, advocated for the billboards to stay. The OSPC is poised to receive an open space land donation from the developer, which includes the land on which the signs are located.

Harrow cited a situation in Holliston where cell towers on the town’s water tank were used to generate funds for that town’s OSPC. He said that set a precedent for Hopkinton to generate income from the billboards to divert to the OSPC.

Commission chair Michael Roughan said he could not determine whether or not the billboards have been there for at least 75 years. There was a request for old photos on the commission’s Facebook page as evidence.

Added Roughan: “No one thought it was historically significant.”

Developer Craig Nation advocated for the billboards to stay, noting that they are quaint landmarks.

Roughan called them “iconic but not historically significant.”

1 Comment

  1. Parker Happ

    Phenomenal news for the town!

    Reply

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