Norwell selectmen are looking to have the Economic Development Committee look into a Chapter 43D designation for 98 Accord Park Drive based on the recommendations given by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and have it voted on at the annual May Town Meeting.
Representatives from MAPC are working with town officials to better utilize Norwell’s commercial properties and to help reduce the tax burden for homeowners.
MAPC’s recommendations are to have the Accord Park Drive properties listed in Norwell’s Economic Growth Plan as strictly commercial properties and to have Queen Anne’s Plaza grow into a mix of residential and commercial properties.
Selectmen are looking to have possible Chapter 43D zoning changes for Accord Park on the annual Town Meeting Warrant in May.
Selectmen also hope to have a dialogue with residents about the potential for a mix of commercial and residential at Queen Anne’s Plaza over the coming months.
Should there be positive feedback from residents about MAPC’s recommendations for Queen Anne’s Plaza, a special Town Meeting may be held in the fall to vote on it and to talk about economic development opportunities in general for the town.
“The whole idea is to do the community education and engagement,” Selectmen Chairwoman Ellen Allen said. “Should the town say, ’We don’t want to do anything,” then we won’t have a fall Town Meeting.”
Selectmen also plan to talk with the landlords of Queen Anne’s Plaza, Federal Realty, to see what they envision with the site and if they agree with MAPC’s findings.
MAPC representative Josh Eichen recommends Norwell “implement a 43D designation” in the case of some of the town’s Accord Park Drive properties to “streamline permitting and increase priority for MassWorks and brownfield grants.”
In Norwell’s Economic Growth Plan, three Accord Park Drive properties were being considered by MAPC, 98 and 101 Accord Park Drive.
98 Accord Park Drive is a former Nissan Dealership and 101 Accord Park Drive is a vacant office space.
These two properties, according to MAPC, are “ripe for investment and redevelopment.”
61 Accord Park Drive is a fully leased industrial building for sale but it is unlikely to entice future property owners to renovate the space or change the use of the building.
During a meeting in July with Norwell selectmen, MAPC also suggested Assinippi Park as a potential space for growth, however now it seems that with a lack of properties for sale in this area and the current vacancy rates not in line with regional trends, MAPC recommends not pursuing redevelopment here.
Queen Anne’s Plaza is believed to hold potential with a mix of residential and commercial properties, according to MAPC.
From MAPC’s research, the Queen Anne’s site is “low rise commercial development, with a total of roughly 150,000 sq. ft. of commercial space”, with 17 acres and 691 parking spaces with commercial business such as the grocery store Big Y, retailer TJ Maxx and a pizzeria currently on site.
South Shore Chamber of Commerce President Peter Forman, who has been working with Norwell selectmen and attending the MAPC meetings, says the South Shore Chamber looks at housing as a tool for economic development.
“Use housing as a way to anchor commercial property and retail property,” Forman said. “Use it as a strategy for economic growth.”
Queen Anne’s Plaza is located at the intersection of routes 53 and 228, providing easy access to Route 3.
“The recommendations are for the town to look at engaging a 43D growth district for Accord Park as well as looking at reforming the existing zoning in the industrial park as a means of upfitting Class B, Class C office spaces that are under performing in the area,” Eichen said.
He went on to say that MAPC recommends looking at Queen Anne’s Plaza as a strategic growth site to accommodate housing for future workers in the area.
MAPC recommends the town update its zoning laws to create an “incentive for redevelopment of under performing office properties.”
They propose a reduction in parking and/or open space requirements in town as well as adding an additional height density to make these spaces more attractive for commercial properties.
According to Eichen, “Bringing new development to Queen Anne’s Plaza would provide much needed housing diversity to Norwell and provide additional tax revenue for the town.”
The goal would be to generate 20 percent tax revenue out of Norwell’s existing commercial properties so as to eventually be able to lower the residential tax rates for Norwell property owners at a later date.
Town officials have been working with MAPC on this project since the first quarter of 2018.
Follow Kate Walsh on Twitter at @MarinerKate.