Published in the April 5, 2019 edition.


WAKEFIELD — An old mill building with a long history of industrial and office use appears poised to enter its next incarnation as a 184-unit apartment building. The building at the corner of Albion and Foundry streets began as a knitting mill and was for many years home to Transitron, a semiconductor manufacturer. In recent years, it has been used for offices and research and development.

The building in question is part of a two-building complex at 178 Albion St. and 7-9 Maple St. According to Brian McGrail, the attorney for the developer, the east building, which runs along Foundry Street, was recently purchased by McGrail’s client, the NRP Group, a developer, builder and property management company based in Cleveland, Ohio. NRP opened an office in Burlington, Mass. in 2017.

NRP plans to convert the east building to residential use, while the west building remains owned by Taurus Real Estate of Boston. That building will continue to be used for offices and research and development.

NRP’s plan is to create 122 one-bedroom apartments and 62 two-bedroom apartments in the east building. McGrail said converting an old mill building is very costly and 184 apartments were necessary in order to make the project financially feasible. McGrail said that NRP will handle the project from concept through construction and will then manage the finished apartment complex.

NRP has also purchased the large parking garage between Foundry Street and the railroad tracks. According to McGrail, the garage currently has 755 spaces and will be re-striped to provide 810 spaces. An additional parking lot on Lake Street will provide 22 spaces and another lot on Maple Street will hold 33 parking spaces. That brings the total number of parking spaces to 865. Under the Zoning Bylaw, the number of spaces required for the proposed use is 801.

A traffic study was submitted to the ZBA in February. According to McGrail, the proposed project will have a minimal traffic impact on the surrounding streets in the area. He said that traffic would only increase by an average if 1.5 percent during peak hours, which is 24 to 56 percent less than office use would generate. Several entry and exit points to the building and parking areas will minimize the impact on any one intersection, he said.

McGrail told the ZBA that the Traffic Advisory Committee required NRP to conduct comprehensive traffic studies at all intersections in the area, including North Avenue and Albion Street, Albion Street and Tuttle Street, Albion and Foundry streets, Albion Street at Murray and Gould streets, Albion and Lake streets, Broadway and Lake streets, Broadway and Foundry streets, North Avenue and Broadway and Main Street and North Avenue.

McGrail introduced Mark Shraiberg, Senior Vertical Design and Entitlements Manager at NRP, who talked about what attracted NRP to Wakefield. He cited the towns “plentiful amenities,” including Lake Quannapowitt, the “classic New England downtown” and proximity to the commuter rail and Boston. He talked about the “presence and character” of the mill building as well as its history, dating back to when it was built in 1897 by Elizabeth Boit as the Harvard Knitting Mills. He stressed the importance of preserving that history and the building.

McGrail turned things over to Tim Williams of the engineering firm Allen & Major Associates to talk about some aspects of the site. Williams said the the courtyard between the two buildings would  be enhanced. The sidewalks around the building will be upgraded, he said, and handicapped ramps will be added. He talked about the existing utilities, which he said would be kept in place and upgraded. Williams said that the parking garage will be improved and reconfigured and brought into compliance with ADA requirements.

McGrail said that the project team had reached out to and met with neighbors on Lake Street and Maple Street and they were receptive to the project.

The ZBA continued the hearing until April 10, when the focus will be on architecture.