Planning Board reiterate desire see a decrease in Beal Commons units


Planning Board reiterate desire see a decrease in Beal Commons units
Taylor Bearden, right, partner at Civico, presents the modifications to Beal Commons. (Photo/Bill Gilman)

SHREWSBURY – It appears likely that if the developers of a mixed-use development on the site of the former Beal school are to win needed approval from the Planning Board, they will need to scale back the number of residential units.

Representatives from Civico/Greenly Development presented the board with proposed modifications to their plans for Beal Commons at 1-7 Maple Avenue on Thursday night.

Taylor Bearden, partner at Civico, outlined the proposed changes, which include shrinking the footprint of the proposed structure, reducing the retail space by 700 sq. ft., to 7,000 sq. ft., adding green space including a community garden, walking paths and compact car parking spaces.

Board Chair Steven Boulay expressed frustration that the developers had not submitted revised formal plans in advance of hearing, stating that the presentation was not what the board was hoping to see.

“These are not plans, these are drawings,” said Boulay. “We have not received any plans relative to what changes have been brought forth. Also, this is the first time we’ve got [the drawings], is today.

Bearden said the developers would be presenting formal revised plans but wanted to get feedback from the board regarding the proposed changes before doing so.

While board members applauded some of the changes proposed by Civico/Greenly, they were unanimous in their displeasure that the number of units weren’t reduced.

“The prior four meetings, I think the board has been relatively clear that we would like to see fewer units, and we’re still looking at 55,” said board member Tim Jarry. “Lowering the amount of commercial space instead of the units, that’s the opposite of what, I think, we wanted to see.”

Board members expressed continued concerns about parking on the site, as well as the impact of traffic on Maple Avenue, Hascall Street, Main Street and Wesleyan Street.

“I would have rather seen a unit reduction as part of this, as well,” said Boulay. “I, personally, would like to see the [proposed] building stay the same, but if we can do something about reducing the number of units. That would put less pressure on the parking situation. It certainly would help offset some of the pressure on the downtown area and subsequently, in the neighboring streets.”

“You talk about walkability, well, it’s retail that drives the walkability of the town center and you’ve reduced the amount of square footage in the retail,” said board member Joseph Thomas. “We’ve all been very clear about what we feel, that the unit count is the problem, with the traffic and the parking on the site. You didn’t even reduce it by one.”

Board members Stephen Rodolakis and Purna Rao were not in attendance at the meeting.

Approximately 75 residents were in attendance at the public hearing. About a dozen took the opportunity to speak and most voiced their opposition to the project in its proposed form, echoing concerns about traffic and parking. Some were opposed to any redevelopment of the Beal school, while others wanted to see the number of units reduced by at least one-third.

Planning Board reiterate desire see a decrease in Beal Commons units
Resident Laura Beaton speaks against the proposed Beal Commons project. (Photo/Bill Gilman)

Moira Miller, president of the Shrewsbury Town Center Association, was one of the speakers to voice support for the project, stating it fits with the vision the town has outlined for the Town Center. She downplayed potential parking concerns by referencing the town’s annual Yuletide Market, held the first Saturday in December. 

This past year, she said, the market attracted an estimated 3,000 people, from the hours of 4 to 8 p.m.

“The lesson to take away from this Yuletide Market experience, I believe, is that all these people, of all ages, found parking for this event,” she said, adding she believed common ground can be found to move Beal Commons forward. “I’m confident that the concerns expressed about this project will be satisfactorily worked out by this Planning Board and the developer.”

The board continued the hearing to its April 6 meeting.


Beal Commons developers propose modifications to plan