Environmental considerations have altered plans to build a 290-unit housing development, park, restaurant and retail complex along the Merrimack River.
City councilors last night voted 8-1 in favor of changes to the Procopio Companies’ previously approved “The Beck” project on the site of the former Ornsteen Heel factory on Railroad Avenue. Michael Procopio, the project developer, said changes actually improve the plan by causing less impact.
“The overall footprint of the buildings shrunk by nearly 30%, going from two building to a single building. Nothing else changes. The unit count does not change. The building height does not change. The park does not change. The roadway, infrastructure improvements do not change. All that we’re dealing with is a change to a single building,” he explained.
Councilor Melinda E. Barrett, who voted against the original proposal, asked how an off-street drop-off, area originally planned between the two structures, would be affected. Procopio explained a smaller drop-off area in still in the plans, but at the far-left side of the building.
The Middleton developer also pointed out the units, studios, one-bedrooms or two-bedrooms, will be slightly smaller in order to fit in one building. He said, for example, a 1,000 square foot unit will now be about 950 square feet.
Procopio said one unrelated change is the scrapping, at least for now, of a planned seasonal dock at the planned park, adjacent to the building. He said the time required for approval would stall the entire project by up to a year and a half. He said he is still hopeful a dock will be allowed but doesn’t want to hold up construction for that length of time.
Barrett, as she did last year, cast the sole vote against approval, saying she believes the project is too big for the site.
Key to the City Council’s support of the project last year is a nearly $2 million realignment and signalization of streets adjacent to Railroad Avenue. The complex also includes land formerly occupied by Skateland and a gas station.