By Laura Hayes, Contributing Writer
SHREWSBURY — A mix of apartments and businesses like a gym and coffee shop may be part of the Beal Early Childhood Center’s future after Shrewsbury’s new Beal School opens.
Developers presented their vision for the site during a May 11 Board of Selectmen meeting. The developers are estimating that the project, known as Beal Commons, could bring between $150,000 to $200,000 in additional tax revenue to Shrewsbury.
“This will set the tone for the center for generations to come,” Board of Selectmen Chair John Samia said.
Reuse committee charts Beal’s path forward
The reuse committee was formed in 2017. In July 2019, the committee delivered their recommendations to the Board of Selectmen. Those recommendations included exploring either an adaptive reuse of the school or the total replacement of the building if proposed by developers.
The committee also recommended that the World War I Veterans Memorial on the Beal property should be preserved in its current location. If that were not possible, the committee recommended moving the memorial to a prominent location along Maple Avenue.
The committee was then recharged as the Beal Request for Proposals (RFP) Committee.
In September, the committee issued an RFP to purchase and develop Beal.
Selectman and Committee Chair Maurice DePalo said only one developer — Civico and Greenly Development — responded, adding that their proposal met the technical requirements of the RFP. They understood the intentions of the RFP and understood what the town was looking for, DePalo said.
“This is essentially a partnership with the town of Shrewsbury, and it’s our goal to instill reasonable confidence based on our experience, and also based on the proposed project we have in front of you,” said Civico Development’s Taylor Bearden.
Bearden said Civico has worked on similar projects in Lincoln and Reading.
Site plans suggest mixed-use development
DePalo cautioned that the site plans were conceptual and may change.
The current school would not be preserved, said Bearden.
Greenly’s Alex Siekierski said the current proposed design for Beal Commons aimed to promote a sense of place and serve as a gateway for Shrewsbury’s downtown district.
“We’re playing off the Beal school itself, and trying to utilize that footprint and the scale and sort of respecting what has been here for such a long time while also activating the site and getting a nice mixed-use by having a nice connection between the two buildings,” Siekierski said.
Siekierski called it a New England style development.
According to their presentation, Civico and Greenly are proposing 50 to 65 apartments and a mix of commercial space between two buildings. A smaller building would sit closer to the street, and a second, larger building would sit farther back behind the entrance driveway.
Siekierski suggested that the front entrance area could be used for special events.
The World War I memorial will be preserved, Siekierski said. There will also be parking and open community space, including a potential pocket park or dog park.
Brie Houghton, a commercial real estate specialist, said several commercial tenants — including a gym, a burger restaurant, a brewery and a coffee and tea shop — have been curated for the site, and may be interested in expanding into Beal Commons.
There would be a buffer between the property and nearby residences. As a result, Siekierski said, there wouldn’t be light overspilling into those residences. To be friendly neighbors, Siekierski added that commercial tenants would be monitored to make sure there weren’t late deliveries.
“I’m glad to see that there’s a buffer,” said board member Beth Casavant. “I know there’s a lot of concern from the residents who live behind the property and around the property — just concerned about parking and noise or lights.”
Board members expressed interest in moving forward with Civico and Greenly and flushing out the plans before presenting them to the public.