attended a Planning Board Sub-Committee meeting last week to discuss traffic plans for project off of Wheeler Road in the "Canyon site" and this week Burlington Patch sat down with the company's Managing Director of Commercial Development Scott Weiss for more details.
The background on the project is that in the fall of 2010 the Gutierrez Company entered an agreement to potentially purchase the 15.3 acre piece of state-owned land that located adjacent to Wheeler Road and near the Middlesex Turnpike (see map at right) from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, often referred to as the Canyon Site. Gutierrez determined the piece of land would be ideal for a retail location eventually began discussions with Target. The plan now calls for a Target location, owned by the retailer, and an adjacent restaurant location Gutierrez is planning to lease to a restaurant group.
Weiss said that in order to move forward with the project, Gutierrez will need Burlington Town Meeting approval to change the zoning of the land to allow for this type of project. Currently the company is planning on putting a warrant article to this affect for the January 23 Town Meeting. Weiss stressed the zoning change would allow for retail and a restaurant, but not for an entertainment destination such as .
Weiss said he understand that in order to get Town Meeting approval, Gutierrez needs to allay concerns surrounding the project. One of the biggest potential concerns, he said, is fears of increased traffic congestion. However, Weiss said he is confident the traffic improvement plans the developer has put together and that will be part of the agreement with the town will not only ease fears but also improve the traffic flow in the area once completed.
"We’re part of the community and that’s a big component to us," Weiss said, adding that Gutierrez owns an office building adjacent to the Canyon Site and so doesn't want make it difficult for employees there to get to work. "With an existing building next to the project, we don’t want to impact traffic. We don’t want get a new retail building but an empty office at the same time."
Funding for the Traffic Improvement Plan:
Weiss explained that his company has $2 million dedicated for traffic improvements for the intersection near Wheeler Road and Route 128 and that Mass DoT has pledged an additional $1 million for improvement along the Middlesex Turnpike through Lexington.
"The town said it wouldn’t be supportive unless we could show real improvements on Middlesex Turnpike, not just near Wheeler Road but down to Lexington," Weiss explained. "So we extended our plan to the whole area."
Weiss said that having the Department of Transportation involved is also helpful because as an official state department, it can take edges of property owned by businesses to widen the road, something Gutierrez couldn't do itself.
"We’re trying to be very respectful to do the maximum we can without disrupting operations [of local businesses]," he said. "In the end this should be a net benefit to them because the improved traffic flow will help them."
Weiss also said that if approved, Gutierrez will apply for a MassWorks grant, similar to those granted for the , for studies of further improvements and work.
Traffic Improvement Plan:
So how does Gutierrez plan to improve traffic?
At the Middlesex Turnpike, Wheeler Road and 128 Intersection, where Best Buy is located, the plan calls for a number of changes (see 2nd map at right):
- The exit ramp for Route 128 will be moved slightly so it lines up with Wheeler Road.
- Middlesex Turnpike coming from Lexington will be widened and a left-turn lane from the turnpike into Wheeler Road will be added.
- Middlesex Turnpike from the Burlington Mall will be widened.
There are also changes in the plans for the intersection of Middlesex Turnpike and Adams Street, where Market Basket and H-Mart are located (see 3rd map):
- Lanes at Middlesex Turnpike at the intersection will be restriped.
- The turn from Adams Street to Middlesex Turnpike will be cut further to allow easier exit.
There will be a discussion at the January 5 Planning Board meeting with a representative of Target. Additionally, Gutierrez will be hodling public informational meeting on the talk, one from 4 to 6 p.m. on Jan. 17 in the Town Hall Annex basement meeting room and a second from 4 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 18 in the Town Hall basement meeting room.
What do you think of the proposed Target? This is going to be a big story and Burlington Patch will cover it as it evolves. What are your thoughts and what questions would you like to have answered as we continue our coverage? Let us know in the comments section below or email Richard.Hosford@Patch.com.
Editor's note: In the original version of this story it said that Gutierrez had purchased the land instead of being in an agreement to purchase.