In a third and final joint meeting of the Westwood and Dedham Planning Boards Tuesday night, officials reviewed a number of proposed solutions on addressing traffic concerns near Allied Drive.
The concerns were addressed by Greater Boston Musculoskeletal Center Real Estate Company, LLC, which is looking to build a 66,000 square foot Shields Healthcare facility at 40 Allied Dr., which straddles the border of the two towns.
The project on a whole would entail the demolition of the 34,000 sq. ft. building that is currently located at the address, followed by the construction of the new building, which would provide such services as outpatient surgery, physical therapy, and diagnostic services, among others.
, both boards expressed concerns on how a new medical facility would affect traffic around the East Street Rotary, which is known for frequent rear-end collisions. Officials then said in November that the proposal .
Addressing Pedestrian Access
The bulk of concern on Tuesday revolved around pedestrian traffic as the applicants proposed focusing attention on commuter access to the site through the MBTA and shuttle services.
Through a revised diagram and traffic/layout analysis, Griffin Ryder and Vinod Kalikiri, project managers with Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., explained that the applicants have proposed installing a sidewalk along Allied Drive from the East Street Rotary to the building, as well as from the building down to the adjacent Dedham Corporate Center MBTA station parking lot.
The push for pedestrian safety dervies from a transportation demand management plan the applicants have proposed in an effort to lessen traffic to and from the site during peak commuting hours.
"It's encouraging people to actually use the commuter rail station," said a Peter Zahka, who is representing the applicants. "But working through the Neponset Valley TMA, there are ways of encouraging actual usage. We felt putting in a sidewalk was one way of encouraging it."
Specifically, the applicants proposed a Transportation Demand Management Plan that would aim to allow for the following:
- Convenient access to commuter rail station
- Site operations inherently conducive to spreading trips over the entire workday
- Bicycle racks and preferential parking for carpools
- Explore memberships opportunities at the Neponset Valley Transportation Management Association
- On-site services such as a cafeteria to reduce midday trip making
- Accommodate trips to the site by shuttle vans from local councils on aging.
While the applicants committed to the construction of the sidewalk down to extend to the Dedham Corporate Parking lot, two residents recommended going a step further
Dedham residents Carol Hills and Joanna Hamblin, who both serve on the Dedham Sustainability Advisory Committee, suggested for the sidewalk to continue along the edge of the MBTA parking lot, as opposed to simply stopping at the foot path.
"I think the only way to do that is to make access from the MBTA stop," Hills said. "What I'm concerned about is that even it's a great sidewalk [idea], it's a sidwealk to nowhere. It's a long walk to the trains to this business and the others, and there's no safe way to that parking lot."
While the applicants said they would not object the idea of an extended sidewalk, they said it would not be included within the realm of their project and that it would need to be addressed on a different level as part of a different project.
Dedham officials asked the applicant to clarify exactly how the sidewalk would be laid out on their plan.
"You have on the TDM benefits plan, convenient access to the commuter rail," said Dedham Planning Board Vice Chair John Behtoney. "We just need to show how that process would work. We need some detail on the safe and convenient access to the commuter rail."
Officials Are Optimistic
But both boards were quick to acknowledged how smoothly the joint meetings have run, and commended the applicants for their cooperation thus far.
Moreover, State Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham), who represents both towns, was present Tuesday to personally endorse the project, saying it could bring in financial benefits for both towns.
"I've had the opportunity to meet with the Shields executives and others to discuss the project and it's my sense that the Shields' strong family values have transcended to the strong company values, and I'm confident that they will uphold the strong values of the company," said McMurtry, who also read a letter written by State Sen. Mike Rush expressing gratitude for the towns working together on the matter.
Additionally, due to the nature of the work at the building, normal working hours for employees at the site could range from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on a given weekday; the applicants claimed that the staggered work schedules would also help alleviate traffic during peak commuting hours.
"I think it's an ideal use, and it's not a 9-5 office, and it's a staggering of people going in and out," said Westwood Planning Board Member Bruce Montgomery.
With the new revisions to the plan, both boards recommended the applicants spell out the details of the sidewalk and access to the Dedham Corporate station in further revisions.
The building currently holds only 187 parking spaces exist on site, but the new facility would allow for 253 spaces, with 164 on the Dedham side and 89 on the Westwood side. However, the number falls short by 11 spaces based what Westwood requires through its bylaws.
But through Westwood's Flexible Mixed Use Overlay District bylaw, the Westwood Planning Board was able to approve a wiaver for the parking spaces, which it did unanimously Tuesday.
The Dedham Planning Board voted to close the hearing as it moves into the next phases of the process, which will involve invididual meetings with the applicants of the project.
The Westwood Planning Board will meet next on Feb. 14 to deliberate the matter.