City Council approves site plans for former Rowe Funeral Home

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City Council approves site plans for former Rowe Funeral Home
Slava Matveychuk, left, and Jamie Andrade, both residents of Ward 3, make signs as part of a protest against plans to build a mixed-use development at the site of the former Rowe Funeral Home. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

MARLBOROUGH – With amendments and plenty of discussion, the site plan to build a mixed-use development at 57 Main St. was approved by the City Council on Monday, April 10.

Most council members joined neighbors in objection to the plans, which currently calls for the demolition of the former Rowe Funeral Home and building 99 residential units, with commercial/retail space, and 28 parking spaces.

“I know this has been stressful for all of us,” said Council Vice President Kathleen Robey. “I feel responsible for the lack of discussion [about the project].”

Robey suggested several amendments, including having the applicant increase the minimum number of parking spaces to 60 and not seek space from the city-owned Bolton Street parking lot.

She added that the amendments could lead to a redesign and a reduction in the number of units.

“The amendments being made are reasonable,” said Councilor Mark Oram. “The chair of Urban Affairs (Robey) tried her best negotiating with the applicant (JW Capital Partners LLC) – they wouldn’t budge.”

“Parking for me is the #1 issue,” said Councilor Sean Navin. “This will have a direct impact on the abutting neighborhood.”

Urban Affairs Committee had approved the plans on March 23 with Navin and Robey voting against.

“This project is detrimental to the neighborhood,” said Councilor Samantha Perlman. “The parking leaves something to be desired.”

After discussion, the council voted to support the amendments, 8-2-1. The site plan, as amended, was approved on a roll call vote, 7-3-1, with President Michael Ossing, Navin and Perlman voting no.

Councilor J. Christian Dumais abstained from both votes, citing family business connections near the site.

Residents respond to former Rowe Funeral Home plans

Residents who live near the site attended the council meeting and wrote to the city.

“The lack of parking is totally ridiculous,” said Andrew and Samantha Pye. They pointed out that the city has “inadequate public transportation, huge distances between grocery stores which are mostly situated in areas without dense housing.”

“It’s not the apartments I object to, it’s the lack of parking for the tenants and customers of the retail or the restaurants,” said Steven Judd.

Some supported the plans, such as Melynda Gallagher, the owner of Lost Shoe Brewing and Roasting Co.

“Right now in the downtown area we are lacking new, updated housing, and the proposed development I believe will attract young professionals with disposable income, which is what we need,” said Gallagher.

Natalie Lashmit, a former member of the City Council, brought up several possible alternatives, such as having the city purchase the parcel, then use it to expand Union Park; having the applicant build an underground space; or having the applicant rent underground parking spaces.

The Community Advocate has reached out to the attorney for the applicant for comment.

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