Westborough Select Board weighs in on BJ’s site redevelopment

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25 Research Drive has, for the past 10 years, been home to the headquarters of BJ’s Wholesalers. (Photo/Tami White)

WESTBOROUGH – The Westborough Select Board got a first look at plans to redevelop the soon-to-be-former BJ’s headquarters last week, with members sharing their thoughts in a meeting.

“This looks like a very exciting project,” Sean Keogh said to developers during the April 12 meeting. “Thanks for bringing it forward.”

The applicant is Samuels & Associates, which is a Boston based real estate developer.

As Senior Vice President of Development Mike Fitzpatrick described it, the applicant is looking at developing an innovation campus on the site, which would feature a combination of uses.

These uses could include life science, research and development, GMP manufacturing and office and amenity spaces.

“We look at it as creating a place that is flexible and visionary where people can come and really promote collaboration,” Fitzpatrick said.

He added that developers want to build a “a good environment to both work and discover.”

Plans for the site 

The developers plan to use two parcels — 25 and 29 Research Drive.

Twenty-five Research Drive has been the home of BJ’s headquarters for the past 10 years, while 29 Research Drive is occupied by Triboro Crane and Rigging Services.

BJ’s is planning to soon relocate to a new headquarters in Marlborough.

“Right now, the site is occupied by some very dated buildings as far as bringing in tenants and attracting the types of tenants and the quality of tenants that we would like to have at this location,” Fitzpatrick said.

He said they have taken a “hard look” at the reuse of the buildings on the BJ’s property.

“It just doesn’t work for the development that we’re proposing,” Fitzpatrick said.

The buildings and infrastructure of utilities would be demolished under current plans.

A “ground up” development, as Fitzpatrick called it, Samuels & Associates is proposing a total of four buildings — one of which would be an amenities building — with a total of 715,000 square feet.

Fitzpatrick said there will be stations to charge electric vehicles and a network of driveways and sidewalks.

As part of that network, there would be a connection to the trail network in the Walkup and Robinson Memorial Reservation conservation land, which is located to the south of the property.

There would also be a new stormwater management system, improving a current stormwater runoff sheet that flows directly into the wetlands.

The Select Board asked a number of questions following Fitzpatrick’s presentation.

Board member Shelby Marshall noted that the potential sewer capacity for the development is more than what is existing on the property.

Select Board member Patrick Welch additionally estimated that the proposed buildings are about three times larger than the existing buildings and the impervious area from parking is increasing by about 63%.

“Westborough is about 15% impervious material townwide. That’s a significant increase,” Welch said.

He asked if there were any alternatives to minimize the impervious surfaces, which are classified as surfaces that do not immediately absorb water, such as pavement and roofs.

These do not allow stormwater to immediately filter into the ground.

“The big benefit here is that we have a very large site,” Fitzpatrick said.

He added that there are certain aspects to the site that don’t allow the property to be developed to a point that “tops off” what is allowed under the zoning for the property.

The development calls for preserving a lot of the open green space and wooded areas on the site, Fitzpatrick said.

He said the applicant’s stormwater management plans reduces the volume and flow of stormwater.

“That’s an improvement to the property that we know we have an issue with right now,” Chair Ian Johnson said. “I appreciate that.”

Phases of the project 

Samuels & Associates plans to construct the buildings as speculative buildings, meaning they don’t currently have specific occupants lined up for the spaces.

According to Fitzpatrick, the initial phase of the project would involve demolishing existing structures. The developers would then begin their various improvements to the site and build new infrastructure.

Ideally, the developers would advance the construction of the buildings, they said.

“But [we’re] looking at flexibility because we want to make sure that we’re attracting and bringing the right tenants,” Fitzpatrick said.

As a result, he said, the developer may phase the project based on the timing of the tenants.

The project will still need to go before the Planning Board for site plan approval.

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