The Natick Board of Selectmen recently signed an agreement with a builder seeking to construct a mixed-use development on the downtown site of the former St. Patrick’s school.
Under the agreement with Stonegate Group LLC, the board pledged to support the Natick-based firm’s proposal to construct 54 residential units — 25 percent of them affordable — and commercial space on the idle East Central Street property, according to Town Administrator Melissa Malone.
The plan calls for a new building on the front portion of the property that would contain up to 46 apartments and up to 14,320 square feet of space for retail businesses, including a possible restaurant. Four town-house duplexes, or eight units in all, would be erected on the rear portion of the property, providing a buffer to the adjacent neighborhood.
Stonegate also agreed to provide office space in the building for a potential future redevelopment authority Natick is considering creating, and to have a permanent deed restriction placed on the parcel that ensures 25 percent of the units remain affordable. Selectmen pledged to support a liquor license for the potential future restaurant.
St. Patrick’s school closed some years ago and the site was later purchased by Stonegate. St. Patrick’s Church remains in operation across the street.
Stonegate is proposing the project under the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing law, which allows developers to bypass local zoning rules. But the development is being permitted as a so-called “friendly 40B,” a process in which a developer works cooperatively with the town’s governing body in securing a comprehensive permit from the local Zoning Board of Appeals. Malone said the recent agreement is a first step in that collaborative process for the Stonegate proposal.
To go forward, the project also will need Town Meeting this spring to approve a zoning change extending Natick’s Downtown Mixed Use zone one block to include the front portion of the parcel.
Along with providing the opportunity for another restaurant in Natick Center, Malone said the development would support Natick’s efforts to expand affordable housing. In doing so, it would also enable the town to remain above the state requirement to have at least 10 percent of its housing stock affordable, a threshold that gives communities control over proposed Chapter 40B projects.
John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.