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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Hometown Site

Paradise in Our Own Back Yard

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The fact that most of the river’s green corridor is surrounded by public parkland makes it easier for the MRWG to fulfill its vision. However, among the privately owned portions of the river, there’s at least one significant site that’s been the source of some dissent. The Hometown site, a former gas station on the corner of North and Cambridge avenues that’s long been a derelict eyesore, is located right on the east bank of the river. The Mandel Group purchased it, and its future uses may include retail areas as well as residential units or a hotel.

The location is significant as a gateway both for the river (it currently provides an important visual link and access point to the river trails from North Avenue) and to the North Avenue commercial corridor. “Because it’s such a major gateway and it’s in such a blighted condition, we want the highest and best use of that property—from a design standpoint," said Jim Plaisted, who represents the site.

He said that he and the MRWGmeet eye to eye on access to the river. “It should be part and parcel of any development plan,” he said. The developer and the MRWG also seem to agree on the nature of potential redevelopment. According to Brummitt, the Mandel Group’s proposals have thus far not run contrary to all of MRWG’s goals. “I think the Mandel Group do see the value of this river corridor,” Brummitt said. “Their residences are going be one of the prime beneficiaries. In fact, we even have one of the condo associations as part of the River Work Group and it’s a Mandel condo association … these condo-owners are going to want to run and canoe as much as anybody else.”

So where does the problem lie? “Where we differ is at the nitty-gritty things like building height,” Brummitt said, adding that she feels like it’s something that could be worked through. “I don't think it’s restricting them too much, and we just can’t sit around and wait for them to come up with plans. I think there's a growing impatience on the part of residents who really want this.”

Photo by Rick Ryerson 

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