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Large residential, commercial project proposed for Hopkinton

A large-scale commercial and residential project that could transform the mostly undeveloped west side of Hopkinton, near Interstate 495, is scheduled to be presented in a public hearing next week.

The development is proposed for a 96-acre site south of West Main Street and east of Lumber Street, backing up to an existing commercial development on that corner. It would include commercial and residential structures, as well as open space.

Four commercial buildings with retail, restaurant, and office space are proposed, along with 30 town houses and 220 apartments, all for rent, according to town planning department files. The developer of the residential component is seeking a state Chapter 40B designation that would provide some flexibility from town zoning requirements in exchange for including affordable housing in the complex.

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The first hearing on the combined development will be held Oct. 6 by the Planning Board, said Elaine Lazarus, the town’s director of land use, planning and permitting.

The housing development, proposed by Mill Creek Residential, would be known as Hopkinton Mews, according to filings at Town Hall. It would occupy about 34 acres of the site, and would feature three-story buildings. The access road would connect to Lumber Street.

The state has already made a preliminary finding that it would qualify as a Chapter 40B project, according to a document filed with the plans.

Under the program, 25 percent of the apartments must be offered at below-market rates to income-eligible tenants, with the state’s guidelines based on the area’s median income and family size. To qualify for an affordable unit, a family of four could earn no more than $67,750 year, according to a state document filed with the plans.

The statute is designed to place more affordable housing in communities where less than 10 percent of the housing stock is considered affordable. According to Mill Creek Residential, Hopkinton has less than 4 percent affordable housing. The Planning Board has disputed its figure, saying that recent gains, including housing in the Legacy Farms development on the east side of town, puts the figure at about 8 percent.

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Officials from the development company could not be reached for comment.

In an application overview, Deborah Horwitz, a lawyer who represents Mill Creek Residential, wrote that the mix of apartments at Hopkinton Mews would “help to advance equity by providing a variety of new housing options for a diverse group of renters; both renters by necessity and renters by choice.”

The housing portion of the proposal would require a comprehensive permit from the town’s Board of Appeals as part of the Chapter 40B process, said town planning official Lazarus. Town officials have been reviewing the housing application for the past nine months.

Because of the scale of the development and its anticipated impacts on town services, including schools and public safety agencies, town officials are negotiating with the developer on a “host community agreement” that would provide mitigation for those costs.

The details have not been made public, but the negotiations are expected to be completed by the Board of Selectmen’s Oct. 7 meeting, according to Town Manager Norman Khumalo.

It is the first time since the approval of the Legacy Farms development that the town has sought impact mitigation from a residential developer, he said.

“It’s the scale of the project,” he said. “In other communities . . . these are called projects of ‘significant impact.’ ”

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Several town department heads have expressed concern in writing about the project.

Police Chief Edward Lee said the impacts on his department could be “substantial” because of the density of housing, and the possibility that a significant number of the tenants could be elderly. In addition, he wrote on June 5, the development will direct traffic to West Main Street at Lumber Street, an area that he stated already has the most traffic accidents in town.

“We are all familiar with the lengthy queues on West Main Street in the morning and evening that are currently a problem,” he wrote. “The proponent indicated that signal timing and some lane configurations and striping would accommodate the new development. While these physical changes might help vehicles exiting Lumber Street, it could significantly worsen the traffic in West Main Street.”

In a May 14 letter, the Planning Board chairman, Kenneth Weismantel, said the board felt the overall number of apartments was “appropriate,” but the number of three-bedroom units could mean “a potential financial burden” for the town, given the anticipated number of children.

According to the plans, the apartment complex would feature a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom designs, with 26 percent of the units, or 66 apartments, with two or more bedrooms.

Robb Hewitt, a vice president with Mill Creek Residential, said in a meeting with the town’s Planning Board last October that the design would be similar to a rental community built recently by Mill Creek in Concord. “Mews” refers to an English development, in which homes surround a common, he said.

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The Hopkinton project is one that would appeal to a variety of renters, he said, including couples who are downsizing and younger couples who are preparing to buy a first house but living initially in an apartment. The rental market is changing in Greater Boston, he said.

“It’s getting older. We’ve been surprised at the number of people in Concord who are moving into apartments,” he said.

There is a shortage of higher-end rental housing, he told town officials, and the I-495 corridor is becoming a popular area because of the commuter access. As a full-service rental community developer, he said, Mill Creek would oversee the project’s construction and then manage the property.

“We’re trying to pick communities we believe in, that have long-term value and that people want to live in,” Hewitt said during a meeting broadcast by the town’s local-access television station, HCAM.


Mary MacDonald can be reached at marymacdonald3@ aol.com.