Here’s a whirlwind update on where a number of Wellesley projects stand as we wrap up 2011:
*Old Wellesley Inn space on Washington Street. Not much new here with the space that’s been vacant across from Blue Ginger since 2006. Plans for The Durant, a luxury condo facility surrounded by stores and offices, have been in limbo due to bad economy. The town says “The State’s Permit Extension Act allows for the Wellesley Inn to retain all permits until 2013.” Peter Bailey of Spaulding & Slye commercial real estate says : “Changes in the financing markets are slow to come but we remain excited and will commence as soon as the capital markets allow.”
*Wellesley Country Club maintenance/storage facilities. Placement of these facilities caused a huge dustup late in 2010/early 2011, but things have been relatively quiet since. Brookside Road neighbors, who fought location of WCC facilities on their now official scenic road, say this past spring the Wellesley Wetlands Protection Committee asked the club to provide a list of alternative sites they considered and explain why those wouldn’t pass muster/why building on the riverfront was the only alternative. The Friends of Brookside also provided a detailed list of alternative locations away from the Brookside Road/riverfront area per request of WPC. “The project is still opened and there’s been no word from the club as of yet, according to Friends of Brookside. As for the club, Paul DeYesso says WCC is still evaluating locations, but that it’s a complicated process involving architects, engineers, planners and contractors. He says the club has been evaluating alternatives and their impacts on buffer zones. “There’s nothing definitive yet, but we hope the alternatives we come up with will be less objectionable and meet the criteria,” he says. “We absolutely need to build a new maintenance facility since the one we have is terribly undersized and functionally obsolete. It’s just a matter of where.”
*Wellesley Senior Center: The Wellesley Council on Aging, having seen Needham and Natick approve building of senior centers, is still hopeful that the town of Wellesley will support its effort for a senior center here. Gayle Thieme, director of senior services in Wellesley, says “the vision for a stand- alone senior center in Wellesley still exists and there is a lot of support out there! Representatives from the Council on Aging and the Board of Selectmen have been meeting very regularly since the campus plan was scrapped [in the spring]. As you may recall, there were concerns about inadequate parking at the former American Legion site. Because of that, the Council on Aging and Board of Selectmen representatives have spent time looking at some other possible locations for a senior center. At the same time, we have been brainstorming about ways to allow for more parking at or near the legion site. I think at this time the biggest message I would want to get out to residents is that they should feel good knowing that the Council on Aging and the Board of Selectmen are committed to this project and our hope is that we can make some real progress in the year ahead.” Terri Tsagaris from the Board of Selectmen adds: “After discussions with the Wellesley Community Center were concluded, a group of COA and BOS representatives was formed to determine next steps. Given the concern over adequate parking at the American Legion site, the group undertook to look at several potential sites in Town. Considerable time has been spent on this work and the group is hopeful that it will complete discussions regarding a potential alternative site by the end of this year or beginning of next year. At the same time, the group is evaluating potential solutions for increased parking at the American Legion site. Additionally, the COA is continuing to evaluate and expand its programs and services, and to gather information on the needs of seniors.”
*Liquor licenses. The town is in the process of filing legislation with the state to reduce the seat requirement for liquor licenses in town to 50. If the legislature acts swiftly, the issue could be put to a town vote this spring. (More: Who says Wellesley is a dry town?) This is one of several efforts underway in town to revitalize the business community.
*Fuller Brook Park restoration. The project is entering phase 3, which involves planning, construction documents, permitting and a bid process. The town just approved funding for this at a special town meeting. This phase should take a couple of years and completion of the entire project could still be 5 years away. The project addresses a deteriorating and hodgepodge path (map of park here), the stream quality and invasive vegetation.
Wellesley High School: Construction on the new school has buzzed along ahead of schedule and under budget, and plans are to open the building to students in February following winter break. More froma the High School Building Committee. Sneak peeks at the new school have started to emerge.
Businesses: Look for First Republic Bank, which has had temporary signage up since spring, to open its doors on Washington Street at the old Blockbuster video spot this coming Spring. Gustare Oils & Vinegars hopes to open by year end in Wellesley Square next to Alta Strada. Waterstone at Wellesley, the senior living facility at the old Grossman’s space, is slated to open this spring, though sales director Joan Barthe says she’ll know in February whether an earlier opening might happen. Ted Tye of National Development says the project’s construction has been aided by good weather and the focus is now on the interior of the building. Leasing is ahead of schedule, he says. The CVS and Newton-Wellesley ambulatory surgical center have bother started interior fit-up work at 25 Washington St., with opening projected for spring as well, according to Tye.