Published in the July 8, 2015
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — Proponents of a new freestanding CVS Pharmacy on the site of the current Bridgewell office building at 471 and 495 Broadway have eliminated plans to include a drive-thru pharmacy window in the design.
It was also revealed at the neighborhood informational meeting held June 30 that the overall footprint of the building would be reduced by just over 1,100 square feet. This would scale back the size of the building from 13,013 square feet to 11,880 square feet.
In response to past complaints made by abutters of the “cookie cutter” design proposed for the building, CVS brought in an architect who unveiled his vision for a building design that is more in keeping with the residential scale of the surrounding neighborhood homes. It includes sloped roofs, clapboards and traditional residential-scale windows flanked by shutters with the front door facing Salem Street.
Traffic remains a concern
These concessions failed to appease many of the approximately 40 abutters at the meeting, particularly those concerned with traffic congestion at the overtaxed Salem Street/Route 1/Route 129 intersection that is controlled by traffic signals.
It was pointed out by several abutters that CVS has not abandoned its plan to keep two driveway cuts on Route 1, in addition to the driveway cut on Salem Street. The second driveway cut on Route 1 would allow customers to continue to take a left-hand turn out of the lot back toward the Salem Street/Route 1 intersection. The Route 1 access is also proposed to be dedicated to truck traffic while customers would also have access via the Salem Street curb cut.
One resident stated he believes customers will avoid the hassle of taking that left turn onto Route 1. Instead, he said they would simply head north on Route 1 by taking a right out of the lot and traveling a short distance to take right onto the residential Monroe Street that leads back to Salem Street via Witham Street and Fairview Avenue.
To emphasize the amount of traffic that passes by Monroe Street on Route 1 daily, abutter David Kulakowski of 17 Monroe St. recalled that traffic was detoured down his street on a recent morning due to utility work taking place on Route 1. Initially, he thought it was a funeral procession. He then proceeded to count the traffic passing by his house at a rate of 16 cars per minute, with well over 900 cars in just one hour.
The plans by CVS have not yet been formally presented to any town boards or the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).
CVS is listening to residents
Brian McGrail, lead attorney for the proponents, stressed to the residents that the changes being presented to them indicate CVS has listened to them and has taken seriously the concerns raised by the abutters at the previous two neighborhood meetings in February and early June. He added the changes were being presented in the spirit of creating a project that is good for both CVS and the neighborhood as well as the town.
“Our ultimate goal is to earn your support for a new CVS Pharmacy,” McGrail said, adding that they remain open to suggestions for additional improvements.
One resident questioned why CVS had a change of heart over the drive-thru window when it had been stated at prior meetings that CVS would not consider locating here if the drive-thru window was eliminated.
McGrail stated that the concession was ultimately made by CVS because the company’s Director of Real Estate, Debbie Constantine, had brought the message back to the decision makers at CVS that she did not believe they would get the support from the townspeople at Town Meeting for the necessary zoning change from limited business to general business.
Drive-thru windows are only allowed in general business districts in town. The decision to drop the drive-thru window came down to how badly CVS wants to capture the Lynnfield demographic, Constantine said.
“We’ve heard you loud and clear on your desire to eliminate the drive-thru component of this proposal,” McGrail said. “After much debate with the CVS hierarchy, they’re prepared to do so and I think that’s a big piece of information.”
Additionally, McGrail said, by eliminating the need to seek a general business zone designation for the site CVS has also eliminated another concern expressed by residents that in the event CVS left the site it could be opened up to an even more intense use in the future.
“With the elimination of the drive-thru it simplifies the re-zoning process,” McGrail said.
Although CVS will not be requesting a zoning change for a drive-thru window at Town Meeting, a small portion of the site is currently zoned residential and a request will be made to change this to limited business.
Local attorney Jay Kimball explained that the limited business zone is the most restrictive business zone in the town and the entire parcel that would contain the CVS building would now be in a limited business zone.
“One of the benefits of stepping back is the limited business zone does not permit drive-thrus. All activities have to occur within an enclosed building thus eliminating under the zoning – not by promise of developer – the fact that there can be no drive-thru,” Kimball explained.
Furthermore, CVS would be prohibited from ever seeking a variance from zoning for a drive-thru in this zoning district because “that would be a use variance and in Lynnfield use variances are not permitted,” Kimball said.
Limited business uses common to this district include shops similar to those found in Lynnfield Center or businesses such as Donovan’s Liquors and Lynnfield Meat and Deli down the street from this site, he said.
Brian Dundon of RJ O’Connell Associates explained that in addition to the elimination of the drive-thru window the redesigned building footprint has been reduced from 13,013 square feet to 11,880 square feet.
The building orientation will remain the same, with the exception of the eliminated pharmacy window. In its place will be a “landscaped island feature up against the building,” Dundon said.
The site will feature 71 parking spaces and truck access will remain only via Route 1 while customer access will be allowed from both Salem Street and Route 1, Dundon said.
Architect Kevin Paton of BKA Architects, who designed the freestanding CVS building in downtown Wakefield, unveiled his idea of what type of building will fit into this neighborhood.
“If you don’t like it we are open to ideas and comments,” McGrail said.
To blend into the surrounding residential architecture, Paton said the building would have sloped roofs on all four sides, with “the main front gable that projects out over the sidewalk” facing Salem Street.
The cottage-style building is also scaled to the typical two- to two-and one-half story residential buildings in the neighborhood. The roof height is 28 feet at the ridge and slopes down to 22 feet along the sides. About 1,500 square feet of storage space is tucked up in the attic, Paton said.
‘Property will be sold’
Chris Everest, a commercial real estate broker with Northlund Associates, was retained by Bridgewell to market and sell its corporate office space at 471 Broadway. Everest said the intention here is “straightforward” because Bridgewell has outgrown the facility and must expand, therefore this property must be sold.
“When we sell, we wish to sell for the highest price, just like when you sell your own house you want to sell for the highest price,” Everest said.
Everest determined that the proximity of the site to both Route 1 and Salem Street means that a retail use “will generate highest rents and highest price.”
Eighteen months ago they entered into an agreement with CVS knowing that they would need to propose a change in the zoning, but he said they were also committed to working with the neighbors in the design of the site. Everest said he likes working with CVS because “I like how they approach opening a new store.”
“My job is simple: To sell the property. Please understand the property is going to be sold. We do not have an alternative buyer nor are we courting an alternative buyer,” Everest said, adding, if CVS walks away and they had to start over Bridgewell would sell the building to a buyer “who could use it by right and not go before any other public meetings.”
Such a scenario would likely convert the first floor to retail store space and the second floor professional office space.
Traffic engineer Jason Plourde of Tighe and Bond expanded upon his prior traffic presentation with the addition of transaction data from several area CVS stores such as West Peabody, Salem, Saugus and Malden and compared the usage to industry standards used in determining trip generation for other types of business uses, such as doughnut shops, convenience stores and an office use such as Bridgewell.
Plourde emphasized that a strict apples to apples comparison of the data could not be made because the transaction data supplied by the CVS stores is not based on the number of vehicle trips made to a particular store. Instead, it is based on the transactions made at the cash register; therefore, it was not known whether a customer drove to the store alone or carpooled with others, or got there on foot, by public transportation or bike.
Furthermore, if a customer uses two coupons during one trip to the check-out counter it is recorded as two transactions, Plourde said. While the transaction data revealed quite a variation depending on the store location Plourde said he was able to determine that the only store without a drive-thru in their sample, located in West Peabody, had the fewest transactions.
They also conducted a traffic count at Bridgewell using both manpower, to determine the turning movements, and traffic tubes to determine volume.
Simply stated, the existing Bridgewell use generates more morning trips than a CVS would while the CVS use would generate more midday, evening and Saturday trips than an office use.
“CVS has higher generation in the evening and especially on Saturdays where an office use is not generating traffic but a retail use would,” Plourde said.
Kulakowski said the CVS being proposed is still a big box store, even with the 10 percent reduction in square footage. McGrail disagreed, stating he has permitted “big box stores.” He cautioned against equating a smaller footprint with a reduced impact, noting that a by-right 3,500 square foot convenience store would have a “voluminous traffic impact” on a local neighborhood due to the nature of the traffic turnover.
Selectman Chris Barrett, who lives in the area on Fairview Avenue, was concerned that the neighborhood would lose leverage with the property owners if they opted to retrofit the existing building with retail space on the first floor and kept office space on the second floor rather than tearing down this building and erecting a new building.
Kimball explained that with a by-right development, “as abutters, you would have a say in the proposal but you cannot prevent the use.”
Abutter Heather Keane was concerned about the lighting associated with signage on the property, noting that the “Barney purple” Bridgewell sign currently in use can be seen “all the way down Canterbury Road.”
McGrail noted that signage regulations differ from town to town, adding that the “Wakefield site allowed gooseneck lighting” to illuminate its building sign. He said CVS would work with the town and residents on signage.
It was also noted by Constantine that CVS generally turns off its main sign at closing and its parking lot signs shortly after closing.
Constantine, who said has been with CVS for 46 years, said that while CVS has closed stores formerly located inside large malls because mall space no longer fits their model, she can’t remember when they have chosen to close a store out of 300 current sites. One exception was a store in Lowell where they wanted to remain but were forced out.
“We are a big chain, but we did it one to two stores at a time. We are a local company that made good,” Constantine said, adding, “Our first store was in Lowell on Merrimack Street.”
The meeting ended with several residents signing up to form a subcommittee of sorts to continue to discuss their concerns with the proposal with Bridgewell and CVS.