Downtown could be home to new apartments, restaurant, retail

A revised plan to put a restaurant and apartments at the corner of Center Street and Coram Avenue awaits final zoning approval and has received wetlands approval.

The Planning & Zoning Commission has approved creating a Planned Development District (PPD) for the project at 62-66 Center Street and 325 Coram Avenue, a 0.48-acre site that includes the building with Jeff’s Appliance and a house.

Existing structures would be replaced by a five-story building with 42 apartments, ground-floor-restaurant with covered patio, and two-story interior parking garage for 44 vehicles. Almost all apartments would be one bedroom.

The applicant, Center Street LLC, is seeking approval for the project’s detailed site plans and has made some modifications based on P&Z input. Entrances and exits to the parking now would be built on both Center and Coram.

At the Jan. 8 meeting, P&Z members asked if vehicles could block traffic while trying to enter the interior garage, especially off Coram due to the lack of an extended driveway.

There are concerns about the amount of traffic in the vicinity, with the intersection of Center and Coram being known for congestion at busy times.

Members asked about trash pickup and delivery vehicle access on such a compact site. Member Mark Widomski questioned if sufficient off-street parking was being provided, noting on-street spaces in the immediate area are in demand, and whether a gate would be installed at parking garage entrances.

Developer engineer James Swift said no plans exist for entrance gates now but it would be considered.

The developer has participated in negotiations to try to buy an adjacent building to expand the site slightly without success, and Swift said the project can move forward with the existing footprint. The proposal won’t affect Porky’s Cafe, which is in a separate building.

The applicant also must get permission from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection due to the project’s impact on water flow in the Burying Ground Brook, which is below the site. The developer would replace an old, underground stone masonry structure in the brook with a modern, precast concrete structure.
Howe Avenue project
Another downtown project that combines residential and retail received formal P&Z approval Jan. 8.

Developer Calandro and Guarrera plans to construct a five-story building at 509 Howe Avenue, with ground-floor retail and 27 apartments on 0.44 acres. The site includes the old Shelton theater building, which will be incorporated into the development, while another one-floor structure will be demolished.

The developer will eliminate a proposed tower in one corner that members didn’t like due to its design and height, using a more traditional design that should resemble older buildings downtown.

The parcel is between White and Beard streets, on the river side of Howe Avenue. There will be 35 parking spaces, with some under the building

The vote was 4-1, with member Mark Widomski in opposition due to parking worries. After the meeting, Widomski said the city needs to build a parking garage or change the regulations that require only one parking space per living unit downtown so new residential development “doesn’t squeeze out businesses for parking.”

Member James Tickey said the project deserved support because it would bring new residential and commercial space downtown.