By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – The Shrewsbury Development Corporation (SDC) came before the Board of Selectmen Nov. 14 with an update on the Marketing and Concept Plan for Centech Park North (formally the Allen Farm Property.)
Centech North is still available for purchase or lease, according to the SDC, which was represented by Chair Richard Ricker, Esq., and members Julie Holstrom, Lisa Cossette and Patrick Convery.
Cossette gave a status update and overview of the property. She said that the last time a comprehensive update was given to the board was in 2011. The property was purchased by the town in 2002 for commercial and industrial usage under the SDC.
“We continue to attract prospects and accomplish our goal of increasing the commercial and industrial tax base in the hopes of recouping the $6.1 million-dollar purchase that was made by the town and we did that by protecting the town against residential development,” she said.
Between 2004 and 2010, the SDC accomplished several actions to help make the property more marketable. They entered into a relationship with the Worcester Business Development Corporation; the town was awarded a grant and received Chapter 43D expedited permitting; Town Meeting approved the Flexible Overlay District; and the SDC created a Master Plan, sought brokerage services, and brought in a sewer.
In 2011, Kristen Las, Shrewsbury’s principal planner, began working with the SDC. The property saw some activity and the sewer was completed in 2012. However, the water capacity remained problematic as well as infrastructure (roads), topography (wetlands), location and traffic issues.
Currently, the SDC is seeking site readiness funding but there is local competition for those grants. There is also competition across the region for potential developers in part because of a surplus of vacant office and warehouse space.
They are now working with Colliers International who are directly reaching out to brokers and potential developers. Cossette reported that through Colliers there has been an uptick in prospects and that the property has been identified locally as a potential site for a new K-4 elementary school to replace the current Beal School.
Selectman Jim Kane inquired if they were learning anything from the market. Ricker replied, “I think what we’ve learned is that water and sewer are very important to most of the people who come to look at these sites. We get to the dance but we get left at the altar.”
Kane also asked if they could “market the four corners of the property into two parcels and back off of the master plan.” Ricker said that the cost of roads is prohibitive and is put back on the developers. Kane then countered with, “I would ask that you go with two secure curb cuts and step out of the way and leave it up to the private sector because if there’s interest they will figure it out.”