New zoning changes could help revitalize Route 138

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A couple of under-the-radar zoning amendments approved at the recent May town meeting could soon lead to substantive improvements along the Route 138 corridor, although the wait apparently continues for a certain vacant parcel on Dedham Street.

Most of the focus at ATM 2015 was on the Plymouth Rubber project, but other key amendments were approved. (Jay Turner photo)

Most of the focus at ATM 2015 was on the Plymouth Rubber project, but other key amendments were approved. (Jay Turner photo)

While not quite as attention grabbing as the Plymouth Rubber redevelopment plan and the related open space purchase that captivated residents at ATM 2015, the aforementioned zoning changes are expected to produce at least two sizeable projects in the coming months: a new hotel and restaurant off Royall Street and a strip center with a mix of retail, restaurant and office uses at 955 Turnpike Street.

Meanwhile, Attorney Michael Khoury, whose client is developing the Turnpike Street project, also sees the potential for future revitalization efforts on Route 138 now that the limited industrial (LI) zoning has been updated with several new permitted uses.

“It’s a significant change,” said Khoury, who drafted the amendment on behalf of Berish Properties, owner of 955 Turnpike Street. “I’ve lived in Canton since 1992 and I think I may have bought the last car at the [former] Dodge dealership there. That and other properties are either under-occupied or just completely abandoned and it’s because the limited industrial use was kind of archaic.”

Khoury’s article, which received widespread support from town meeting voters, was essentially a scaled-down version of the Route 138 Economic Opportunity Overlay District Bylaw that was defeated at town meeting in 2009. Whereas that proposal focused on the whole of Route 138 from the Milton line to the Stoughton line, Khoury narrowed the focus to the LI zone only — essentially from the 99 Restaurant to Windsor Woods.

The amended LI district on Turnpike Street will now allow for such uses as professional offices, banks, doctor and dentists’ offices, retail stores, restaurants, and fast food establishments. Khoury made each of the new uses subject to a special permit from the zoning board so as to promote responsible development and also to ensure that any and all traffic concerns would be addressed in advance.

Over at 955 Turnpike Street, Khoury said Berish is building two buildings and had originally planned to seek office and warehouse tenants; however, with the new zoning in place, they are now pursuing a range of uses, including a restaurant, smaller retail stores, and medical offices.

Khoury said Berish Properties are “good, responsible landlords” with an impressive track record in the region. They own and manage several properties in southeastern Massachusetts, including a building on New Boston Drive in Canton that is currently used for warehouse and distribution.

Khoury said that Berish does not yet have any specific tenants lined up for 955 Turnpike Street, but they are excited to at least have more options.

The other recent zoning change that will impact the Route 138 corridor is the creation of a second Hotel Overlay District, along with a companion amendment that allows hotels to include restaurants subject to a special permit from the Planning Board.

Submitted by Attorney Paul Schneiders on behalf of the Boston Mutual insurance company, the new HOD covers two parcels along Royall Street and all of Royall Lane — between the Boston Mutual and Reebok headquarters and just down the road from the town’s only current hotel, Homewood Suites. Current plans call for the creation of a 150-room hotel and restaurant, which will be owned by a separate legal entity, Boston Mutual Real Estate Trust, and operated by a major hotel chain.

Schneiders said that his client has spoken to several companies, including Marriott, Hilton, and Homewood Suites, and while they do not yet have a deal in place, he believes they are “very close.”

“We still need to do a traffic study,” he said. “We have a lot of different people working on it to get all the pieces together, but I’m fairly certain that we will file [a petition] before the end of September.”

Meanwhile, Schneiders had very little news to report with regard to another recent client, Dallas-based TopGolf, who had been eyeing the former Cumberland Farms property at 777 Dedham Street as a possible future location. Schneiders said the company, which operates state-of-the-art golf entertainment facilities, had at one point expressed genuine interest in the property, and he was able to secure a zoning amendment that would permit TopGolf to operate a restaurant on the site. However, they have since expressed concerns about the planned widening of Dedham Street by the state Department of Transportation and the impact that it could have on the feasibility of the project.

Gene Manning, who chairs the Canton Economic Development Committee, said he spoke to TopGolf officials earlier this summer and shared some of the state incentive packages that might be available to the company, including certain financing options offered by MassDevelopment, but he has yet to hear back from them.

The Citizen also made attempts to reach TopGolf, but calls placed last week to Zach Shor, the company’s director of real estate, were not returned.

Manning said TopGolf is one of a number of prospective buyers, including FedEx and UHaul, that have expressed interest in the Dedham Street site since 2009, when Cumberland Farms relocated to Framingham. He said the property is also one of 12 in Canton that are eligible for expedited permitting under the state’s Chapter 43D program, yet it is currently the only one that has yet to find a buyer or a tenant.

“I think that one of the problems over there is with the I-95 interchange and also [University Station] still getting on its feet,” he said. “There isn’t one concrete reason why the property hasn’t been developed, but I suspect once University Station is built hopefully we’ll see some activity over there soon.”

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