The Matto family has unveiled a new concept plan for its downtown site, which appears to have the full backing of Mayor Mark Lauretti.
The Mattos would give the city 21 feet of land on the Bridge Street side in return for the city giving it some property in the rear, from where the post office public lot now is located.
The city then would build a new section of Bridge Street connecting Howe and Coram avenues, and some storefronts in the new Matto development would be accessed from this new part of Bridge Street.
This also would allow the Mattos to move a new structure farther back from Howe Avenue, widening that sidewalk.
Zoning application coming soon
Joseph Matto, an architect, showed some of the ideas to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z)’s Downtown Subcommittee last week. Joseph Matto said the concept represents “a new direction” and was aided by “a really good meeting” with Lauretti.
The concept is still being finalized, but the Mattos could submit a formal application to the P&Z for the development in June.
“I hope everyone is as excited as we are,” said Richard Matto, another family member.
Lauretti said the Mattos and city now appear to be working in tandem, and he likes the look and design of the newest Matto concept. “I think we’re very close to something good,” the mayor said.
The Matto site is the property where a January 2014 fire destroyed a 19th-Century building with retail, offices and apartments. One small structure, where Liquid Lunch and the Joy Lee Chinese restaurant were located, survived the fire.
The property is owned by Ralph and Elaine Matto, with the other family members being the children.
Can pursue now
The new concept appears to be one that could be pursued on its own, separate from what might happen with other parcels that make up the two-block redevelopment area bordered by Howe Avenue, Center Street, Coram Avenue, and White Street.
Joseph Matto said his family could “lock in” its development while allowing other development to eventually take place around it.
The new concept includes a new building with first-floor retail, second-floor offices, and upper-floor apartments. The building likely would be five stories in height and have 28 apartments, six offices and five retail spaces, including the existing ones where Liquid Lunch and Joy Lee were located.
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In general, a new building would be constructed just north of the Liquid Lunch/Joy Lee structure, creating an open arcade between them, and then a new combined structure — housing the offices and apartments — would go above them.
Joseph Matto said the Liquid Lunch/Joy Lee structure would remain and be incorporated into the larger structure, but five feet removed from this building on the Howe Avenue side.
The city also would likely take steps to upgrade the pocket park at Howe and Center, known to many as Hunter’s Corner, creating a desirable outdoor gathering space next to the Liquid Lunch location.
The goal would be for the city to eventually build a parking area behind the new Matto complex. This would likely be two levels, accessed from Bridge Street and Center Street.
In addition, small retail stores might eventually be built on Coram Avenue near Center Street, next to the new parking.
The new Bridge Street section would include diagonal street parking, in front of the Matto retail stores.
Joseph Matto said once approved, perhaps by late summer, the family would like to begin construction.
“How exciting,” said Ruth Parkins, P&Z chairman.
State Rep. Jason Perillo also was upbeat about progress on redeveloping the property.
“This is exciting,” Perillo said. “Local government should be working hand-in-hand with local property owners. Collaboration is the key to success and I think that’s where we’re headed.”
City Hall and firehouse
The city also is looking at the idea of moving City Hall to this two-block area. It likely would go where the Echo Hose firehouse and probate judge office now are located.
The historic Pierpont Building would remain, but it’s likely the U.S. post office will eventually be relocated.