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West

Concord

Panel seeks balance for village

Forum will review plans, seek feedback

As West Concord continues to be a hotbed of commercial and residential activity, a neighborhood group says it wants to make sure growth is balanced and doesn’t disrupt the character of the village.

The West Concord Advisory Committee is holding an open house Thursday to update residents about ongoing projects, and seek their input about the size and scope of the developments. The meeting, which will include a presentation on the history of the village, will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Harvey Wheeler Community Center on Main Street.

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“There are a lot of things happening rapidly,’’ said committee member Sue Felshin. “The question is, how can we come through that without losing what we have?”

West Concord residents say their village is special because it’s not touristy or overrun with chain stores. Instead, it has shops and services that residents can use on a daily basis.

“It’s not sanitized and pretty, but it’s not run-down and ugly,’’ Felshin said. “It’s real, practical, and homey.’’

‘There are a lot of things happening rapidly. The question is, how can we come through that without losing what we have? . . . You really can have a big impact by getting involved.’

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The advisory group is a subcommittee of the Planning Board, and was formed about two years ago as an outgrowth of the West Concord Task Force. The task force was created in 2008 to help develop a master plan for the village area as several properties went up for sale and redevelopment seemed imminent, said Concord’s planning director, Marcia Rasmussen. The task force was disbanded and replaced by the advisory group.

The biggest project in the center of the village is the proposed redevelopment of 50 Beharrell St., which is now before the Planning Board. Rasmussen said the project calls for 74 housing units and 30,000 square feet of commercial or industrial space. As a part of the project, a former Chrysler car dealership’s parking lot will be turned into a loop road for access. A new building will also go in the former parking lot, but Rasmussen said the use has not yet determined.

Also in the works is a new two-story building at 114 Commonwealth Ave., where there will be retail space and storage. It will be the new home of Concord Outfitters, which is a fly-fishing store now located at 84 Commonwealth Ave.

There are also several properties that are up for sale or were recently sold. The West Concord Supermarket property was just purchased and the new owners are considering the site for a restaurant, Rasmussen said.

“We knew this was going to be a focus of change because so much was in play in 2009 and 2010,’’ Rasmussen said.

Gary Kleiman, chairman of the West Concord Advisory Committee, said his panel is not opposed to growth and redevelopment, but members want to make sure it’s balanced and fits the scale of the village.

He said it would be one thing if the projects included a few housing units here and there, but most have more than 40. In addition to the proposed units at Beharrell Street, the Concord Housing Development Corporation is looking to build as many as 42 units near the state prison in West Concord.

He said those projects are on top of the 350 units at Concord Mews, 80 at Warner Woods, and 50 at Concord Commons, all of which were completed within the past six years.

“It’s about the size of individual projects,’’ Kleiman said. “When you start adding it up, the cumulative impact is what we’re focused on.’’

Kleiman and Felshin said the committee doesn’t have all the answers, which is why they hope residents will take the time to attend Thursday’s meeting.

“I hope people will take an interest,’’ Felshin said. “You really can have a big impact by getting involved, but things can slip away while you’re not looking.’’

Rasmussen said development in West Concord is busier than other parts of town but expects Thoreau Street and Concord Center to pick up.

She said the Planning Board recently appointed a task force to study the redevelopment of the Millbrook Tarry property, just outside Concord Center on Lowell Road.

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@yahoo.com.

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