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University Station Developers Reveal Plans, Eye 2013 Start Date

Target and Wegmans are still among interested tenants, but the project will be substantially smaller in size.

It may resemble Westwood Station, but University Station will be something different for the town of Westwood.

That's what developers of are aiming for, at least.  

Representatives for New England Development and Eastern Real Estate, as well as others involved with the project, gave a brief overview of what they hope to bring to Westwood in the area of University Avenue during Tuesday night.

"We're really excited to be back here and we're looking forward to getting something done," said Steven Fischman, President of New England Development, which was originally involved in the Westwood Station proposal.

Target and Wegmans, both of which were interested in taking root at Westwood Station, remain interested tenants, developers maintained. But while the general layout of University Station will give a nostalgic nod to the failed Westwood Station project, the overall scope of the new plan will be substantially smaller in size. 

"The project is less than half the size of the original proposal," said Paul Cincotta, a project manager with New England Development, estimating that University Station will comprise only about 2 million square feet, as compared to the proposed 4 to 5 million square feet for Westwood Station. "One of the big benefits we see is it really simplifies the transportation or the roadway network."

Under the new proposal, Westwood Station Boulevard would be eliminated in an effort to simplify the overall plan and reduce an increase in traffic. Moreover, turning points near Canton Street and Blue Hill Avenue would be much simpler in design, and developers aim to widen University Avenue to include four travel lanes, two on each side of the road, in addition to new turn signals. 

The group is aiming to engage closely with the Planning Board, and aims to have support from two-thirds of the town at a special Town Meeting in December, with an ultimate goal of starting construction in the spring of 2013 to have an initial portion of the venue open by 2014.

The retail portion of the site would comprise about 550,000 square feet, while about 500 to 600 ownership residential units would take root. Adding to that, about 150 to 200 units for senior housing is planned. 

Developers also aim to include a hotel of modest size (about 150 to 175 rooms) near the residential area, as well as a "village retail" area that would comprise small shops spanning anywhere from 60,000 to 70,000 square feet. Office space is also planned, and would take up about 300,000 to 400,000 square feet.

Meanwhile, developers have been holding discussions at the state level. 

"We anticipate they're going to cooperative with some of the traffic improvements that have been done for this development," Fischman said. 

The group also committed to holding closer discussions with residents in that section of town to address traffic concerns related to the project as the proposal moves forward.

The group of developers plans to provide the Planning Board with an outline of reports needed in the project in the coming weeks, as well as discussions on zoning, text, and finally to begin providing the board with materials, explained John Twohig, an attorney with Goulstein and Stoors, serving at the zoning attorney for the project.

Developers also plan to conduct a high-quality traffic study, a storm-water study, a utility study and a fiscal/economic impact study, among others, Twohig said. 

Overall, officials were pleased with the initial discussion and said they look forward to moving forward. No formal action was taken Tuesday night, as Planning Board members stressed that it was the first time they had seen any proposal on the newly-revamped project. 

"One thing I like about the approach is the community wants to be comfortable with the plan, and so it's the content of the plan that's the important thing," said Planning Board Chair Jack Wiggin.

The board, he added, would need to become more familiar with the details of the proposal as it moves forward. Planning Board member Stephen Rafsky emphasized the need to move discussions along as early as July if the notion of holding a vote in December is to come to fruition. 

Town Administrator Mike Jaillet also weighed in Tuesday, saying he approved of the developers' approach.

"This is an extremely important aspect of this project, because it gives some surety that this thing will finally get to construction and get rid of what's there," Jaillet said. "From my perspective, the budget and the funds for the budget are extremely important. Commercial, which is what that vacant property is, is an important element of our tax base. We need to reinvigorate our commercial base. We need to do it soon. The approach they're planning to take is, I think, the appropriate approach."

The Planning Board will discuss the developers' intial proposal at its next meeting on June 19 at the Carby Street Municipal Building.

stubmytoe June 25, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Im glad people are solely focused on the schools. Since when have you seen 3 kids living in a condo in westwood? please
sean June 25, 2012 at 06:20 PM
How many condos do we have in Westwood? If you didn't see a lot yet, don't worry. The devlopers are shooting for the end of next year. Westwood public school spends roughly $13900 per student. http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/ppx.aspx This project presumbably would bring in 1.3 million dollar in tax for town each year. The math doesn't add up.
paula from Westwood June 25, 2012 at 07:19 PM
We have bunk beds so we can sleep four to a room.
WW Resident September 14, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Any updates on this topic?
K January 19, 2013 at 02:03 AM
Stubmytoe-just because you haven't seen three kids living in a condo in Westwood doesn't mean it won't happen. I would do it if I couldn't afford a house in the town. Stay as long as my kids got a good education. People like myself overpaid for a house just to get into the schools. Could have had an amazing house in Dedham or Norwood for less. People will do anything for their kids.

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