Double dip: Developer pitches multi-family housing on Wellesley’s Walnut Street, Washington Court

A developer this past Monday made a second appearance before the Wellesley Planning Board to seek zoning flexibility for two separate housing development proposals in Lower Falls that could eventually produce a total of more than 90 condos (see Wellesley Media recording, starting at the 50-minute mark).

The hope by developer is that the Board will back his request to employ the Residential Incentive Overlay (RIO) option to build multi-family housing in areas not currently zoned for that—a request that could make its way to Special Town Meeting in the fall. RIOs are fairly rare in town, though Town Meeting earlier this year approved such a zoning map change request for a proposed 34-unit condo project at 194/196 Worcester St.


6 Washington Court

One of the new Lower Falls projects, dubbed 6 Washington Court, would replace a multifamily home and former auto service property with a condo complex of 25 3-bedroom units. The living space would be across three floors above a garage and lobby level.

Both the developer, Joe Hassell, and his attorney described the project now—after changes were made based on town and neighbor input—as being a 3-plus story building with the height reduced by about 9 feet and the building sunken further into the ground. Setbacks have been increased as have planned tree plantings that will serve as buffers. To orient you, Washington Court is across Rte. 16/Washington Street from St. John the Evangelist Church.

Since learning about the project, some neighbors have raised concerns about 6 Washington Court, including its size and a proposed roof deck. One neighbor who spoke at the July 3 meeting said the initial reaction to the plan was that it was “shockingly large,” but that significant changes and steps in the right direction have been made. Going forward, if the project gains town approval, neighbors will keep an eye on whether the project can be constructed as promised.

McQuillan's auto service washington ct
Existing auto service building on Washington Court


Walnut Park

The second project, Walnut Park, could contain more than 70 condo units, with plans initially for a 4-story, 41-unit condo building at 49 Walnut St. with a roof deck. This project, sited along the Charles River near the Mary Hunnewell Fyffe Footbridge and Cordingly Dam, involves replacing office buildings with housing, and would be done in phases based on whether existing commercial tenants at some of the buildings, such as 47 Walnut, might be staying or going.

walnut park rendering
Walnut Park developer rendering presented to Planning Board


The Planning Board in June asked the developer to come back with more detailed site plans, and those were shared at the July 3 meeting. The vision for part of the development includes space for a café that could be open to residents and the public, providing a place to grab some food and enjoy the riverfront.

The Walnut Street proposal has thus far faced no abutter resistance that were aware of. This is squarely within an industrial stretch without residential abutters.

25-37, 47-49 walnut park

The Planning Board has been generally supportive of the proposals, both at its June 1 and more recently, July 3 meetings. The town has been making a push to boost multi-family housing, and both of these projects would be near the Lower Falls commercial district. The Walnut Street project is only about a mile from the Woodland MBTA green line station, and this section of town has been discussed as part of the town’s efforts to comply with the state’s MBTA Communities requirements for multi-family zoning.

Next steps would include Planning Board public hearings, likely in September, and votes on whether to support the zoning map change requests for possible articles at Special Town Meeting in late October. If Special Town Meeting were to approve such articles, the developer would then begin a process of working through town boards, including Planning and the Zoning Board of Appeals, to apply for permits needed to move forward on the projects.


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