Back in February, Wellesley was close to issuing a request for proposals (RFP) that would invite developers to submit ideas for how to reimagine the Tailby Lot (Linden Street) and Railroad Lot (Grove Street near Post Office). The reasoning put forth was that the town seeks to redevelop the lots in an effort to address its affordable and diverse housing shortage, but also to possibly increase parking and better tie together separate parts of Wellesley Square.
Now the town has released an official RFP, which says that it invites “…proposals from qualified developers to enter into one or more long-term leases to develop the Town of Wellesley Tailby (103 Linden Street) and Railroad (7 Grove Street) Commuter Parking Lots for parking and affordable and market rate housing that will be owned and operated by the selected developer(s).”
The RFP includes a history on the various efforts to rethink the space since the 1970s. Here are some of the ideas that have been floated over the years: decking over the Tailby Lot to increase its parking capacity and to accommodate housing; relocating the Wellesley Square railroad station to the vicinity of Weston Road and building a parking facility on town-owned land at that location; using the Tailby lot as part of a link between the Linden Street shopping area and Wellesley Square; co-developing the Tailby Lot for housing and parking”
The 2007 – 2017 Comprehensive plan called for focusing “efforts to create more diverse housing types and affordable housing by attracting rental developments to identified sites in Wellesley ”
Now it looks like 2018 will be the year when the town finally moves forward definitively with choosing a developer for that site. In the RFP’s list of Wellesley’s 15 preferred objectives, there are echoes of the suggestions made over the past three decades. Among them: “To creatively preserve and protect the Town interests in consistent and orderly growth within the Linden Street corridor while maintaining the character of the abutting single-family neighborhoods”; to create a mixed-use environment that includes subsidized housing inventory, enhanced and increased access to parking that serves the Linden Street and Wellesley Square areas; and to improve traffic flow.
Given the town’s efforts to fend off 40B proposals that some feel would be too disruptive to neighborhoods, it’s not surprising that the RFP addresses this issue head-on, noting in the RFP that “…the Town seeks to take proactive efforts to guide the development of affordable housing to appropriate sites that complement the integrity of the Town’s character, while also working to meet one or more 40B certification thresholds to protect the Town from future “unfriendly” 40Bs. The development of the Tailby and Railroad lots would do just this, allowing for many beneficial objectives to meet, while reducing the likelihood of development of 40B projects that are less ideal in terms of design and location.”
One of the 40Bs the Town references is the proposed 55-unit housing project at 148 Weston Road that would include 11 rental units deemed affordable. That site eligibility was okayed by a quasi-public outfit called MassHousing that also finances such buildings. The town, however, has a long list of concerns about the Wellesley Park project, including its potential impact on traffic, the environment and character of the neighborhood, and MassHousing has instructed the developer to address such issues as it moves forward with trying to get a comprehensive permit from the town. On April 3 there will be a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting that will include that issue.
Another 40B project is proposed for Delanson Circle, off Linden St., and has raised similar concerns to those aired by the town. The fact that two such projects are in the works in relative proximity to each other has ratcheted up neighbors’ concerns. That project will also be discussed at the April 3 ZBA meeting.
The RFP is due June 1, 2018 at noon, and a site visit for this RFP will be held on April 9, 2018 at 10am at the entrance to the Railroad Commuter Parking Lot.
Once the RFPs are in the Board of Selectmen will review them and make recommendations.