Planning Board Approves Site Plan for 11-Story Research Building

An 11-story research and development building on the current site of Floramo’s Restaurant may only be the beginning of a larger research and development cluster on Everett Avenue.

Last week, the Planning Board approved the major site plan review for the project at 213 Everett Avenue being proposed by Verdynt.

The developer and his team addressed some concerns raised by the Planning Board in May about the scope of the project and a partnership with Chelsea schools.

Doug Mednetz, one of the principals of Verdynt, said he has met several times with Chelsea school administrators and would commit to setting up a lab space for the use of the nearby high school and other schools in the city. Mednetz, who has a science background, also said he would assist the schools himself, and would help find a funding source to pay for teachers who take part in afterschool programs at the school lab space.

The development team also presented a plan that would set back the entrance from the sidewalk. The original plan had the facade abutting the sidewalk.

The entire building will be about 390,000 square feet, with about 286,000 square feet of that leasable. The estimated construction cost is $267 million and it is anticipated that the cost to lease space will be $600 to $700 per square foot, according to project architect Matthew Juros of Fishbrook Design in Haverhill.

Because of water table and soil issues, three of the lower levels of the building will be an above ground parking deck.

Medvetz said the building is a huge investment in Chelsea, and that he plans to be in Chelsea for a while.

“We have other lots across the street we have under agreement that we are planning to do something similar with,” he said. “This isn’t a one and done building.”

Planning Board member Sharlene McLean said she still had some concerns about the scope of the project.

“I do appreciate the effort to create the illusion of a setback,” said McLean. “I do still have serious reservations about the height of the building. I am a little disappointed there wasn’t an attempt to meet us halfway; the zoning says no more than eight stores and you want 11 and there hasn’t been an attempt to go down a floor or two.”

Medvetz said the size of the building is necessary to make the project economically feasible, and that both the purchase and sale agreement with the Floramo family and the financing of the project was dependent upon getting approvals from the city.

The project does have the backing of City Manager Thomas Ambrosino and City Council President Roy Avellaneda, who both spoke in favor of the project at last week’s Planning Board meeting, along with Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson.

“This is in the business zoning district,” said Ambrosino. “It was created before my time, but presumably it was to attract major commercial development. It has attracted four hotels and a major FBI office building.”

Ambrosino said the Floramo’s lot was not created for a single-story restaurant.

“This is exactly the kind of major commercial development that the city wants in these commercial business districts,” said Ambrosino. “It is going to generate significant and good paying jobs and it is going to generate significant economic benefit for the city, including large amounts of property tax on an annual basis, and it’s going to aesthetically improve the area. It is precisely the kind of development we are trying to attract to this commercial business corridor.”

Avellaneda said that while the 11 stories may seem like a large structure, having the parking contained within the building actually makes a more attractive building than a smaller commercial space surrounded by rings of outdoor parking.

Robinson said he has sat in on some of the meetings between the developer and the school department, and said he believes they will live up to what they promise.

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