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Hearing on future of historic Atwood House July 1

UPDATED June 28: The Arlington Heights neighborhood could see a new hotel-restaurant, apartments with retail space, a combination of the two or possibly something else entirely -- but not any time soon.

Depending on which type of development he deems most economically viable, applicant James Doherty now may need to obtain a new special permit for his properties at 1207-1211 Mass. Ave., near Appleton Street -- further lengthening a process that began almost four years ago.

He still sees a hotel-restaurant combination as the best option; the Arlington Redevelopment Board had originally approved a four-floor structure with 48 rooms and a small restaurant.

But money is the limiting factor.

Doherty notes hopes

“I’m going to be dead honest with you,” Doherty said during the June 10 board meeting. “In two years, whatever goes [in] here is going to be here for a long time, and I want to make sure that it’s the right thing, and I want you people, as you did the first time around, to be comfortable with what’s going to be down there.”

Originally granted a special permit in 2020, he received a two-year extension in December 2023 on the condition that he agree to return at least once every six months to update the ARB on his progress.

Given high interest rates, construction costs and insurance fees, he told members that he has not yet nailed down any investors, though he has gathered feedback from interested parties who he said “love” the location. Suggested modifications range from increasing the restaurant’s size to replacing hotel rooms with condos on the top floor to building a mixed-use residential development.

Board member Shaina Korman-Houston mentioned that she had seen such hybrid apartment-hotels in Somerville.

‘Like a new canvas’

Doherty said that construction professionals recently have advised him to “almost look at it like a new canvas” and to consider the question, “What do we have here?”

Kin Lau was the first board member to say that Doherty might need a new permit. Doherty explained that the new possibilities arose as he gathered details about what might actually be built -- a request board members had made during his last hearing.

“I really don’t want to open the whole thing [back] up, but I also felt obligated to come here tonight and explain to you all that this is real feedback because, last time I was here, the conversation was, ‘it was too high level, bring it down,’ ” he said at Monday night’s meeting.

“I’m not going to just do an inferior project [just] to get something done. I hate to be saying this, but I’m the guy who’s going to eat tens of thousands of dollars.”

Doherty emphasized that he appreciates hearing the board’s concerns and wants to continue to closely collaborate.

Located near St. Athanasius the Great Greek Orthodox Church, 1211 Mass. Ave. is the site of a one-story garage and 1207 contains a one-story building, according to board documents. With the two parcels zoned as being in a neighborhood business district and a vehicular oriented business district, Doherty applied for a special permit, which the board approved Aug. 17, 2020.

Ten neighbors sued to stop the development in September the same year. However, a land-court judge dismissed the complaint a month later.

At this month’s meeting, the board penciled Doherty’s next check-in for Dec. 2. In the meantime, they said they would look into the question of whether he might need a new permit.

Hearing postponed for site of historic house
The Dr. Charles A. Atwood House as it looked in 2015.The Dr. Charles A. Atwood House as it looked in 1915.The Atwood house in July 2021 after the stop-word order was sent.The Atwood house in July 2021 after the stop-work order was sent.

In other news, Noyes Realty requested to postpone an expected June 10 hearing for 821 Mass. Ave., site of the Atwood House, a historically significant if notably delapidated structure. In August 2021, the owner attempted to remove it, resulting in fines and a two-year moratorium on demolition.

The company, which owns both the long-vacant house and a nearby building housing a CVS drugstore, recently discovered that it could not build two retail spaces as originally hoped. This is because the lease with CVS does not allow other retail in such close proximity, according to the Town of Arlington’s director of planning and community development, Claire Ricker, who spoke briefly at the meeting.

An April 22 special permit application shows that three three-bedroom residential units are also part of the Noyes Realty plan for the location.

Members of the board voted unanimously June 10 to continue the hearing on 821 Mass. Ave. to July 1.

The board was scheduled to meet again at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 17, at the community center, and also July 1, for the public hearing on the Atwood house:

Watch ACMi video of June 10, 2024, meeting:

Jan. 21, 2024: Affordable-housing issues front and center at ARB meeting in early January

This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Jacob Posner was published Sunday, June 16, 2024. It was updated Thursday, June 27, 2024, to add a video recording of the meeting by YourArlington media partner ACMi, the local cable television station, and Friday, June 28, to link to the agenda for the ARB meeting planned for Monday, July 1.