Published in the July 17, 2015 edition

MELROSE — An important pitch to turn the Deering Lumber property on Essex Street into a 90 unit assisted living facility with a 45 space parking lot was approved earlier this month by the Planning Board.

The Residence at Melrose Station is the first project to be proposed under the city’s new Rail Corridor Overlay District. The overlay district’s creation is designed to modernize some of the businesses now in operation along Essex and Tremont streets north to Franklin Street and the Melrose Highlands.

In their findings Planning Board members wrote July 1, “The project, when complete, will become a flagship property in our newly created Rail Corridor Overlay District and will enhance the streetscape along this important corridor, providing a use that is currently lacking in Melrose and apparently is in great demand. The proposed project is entirely consistent with the design standards for (a project in the overlay district), including building design, general site design, parking, landscaping, site lighting, signage and infrastructure.

“The Planning Board found the proposed building to exhibit a high level of refinement. The materials chosen to be used on the building facade are high quality materials. Consistent with the design standards, the ground floor is expressed separate and distinct from the upper levels. Between the third and fourth floor, a cornice will be used to create further separation. The stepped back fifth floor, a zoning requirement for a fifth floor, reduces the overall mass and shadow effect of the building.

“In other locations, the height of the building is only one or two floors, further reducing the mass of the building. The proposed new building is located close to the street and will be very prominent to the streetscape, yet the articulation of the facade at pedestrian height helps to minimize the massing of the building. Certain design features will be refined further and submitted to the Design Review Subcommittee for review and approval.

“The sign design was driven by the presence of an MWRA sewer easement that runs the length of the property behind the proposed building. As a result, the building is located close to the intersection of Essex and Willow streets and the parking is at the rear of the property, similar to Station Crossing on Willow Street and consistent with (overlay district) design standards. There will be a single driveway to the property on Essex Street. The parking lot is designed to provide adequate drainage, snow storage and maneuverability. An internal crosswalk will be delineated from the pavement. The addition of a sidewalk on sidewalk on Willow Street and the reconstruction of the Essex Street sidewalk will enhance pedestrian accessibility in this important corridor. Public amenities are provided consistent with (overlay district) zoning and design standards. Benches are located along the sidewalks, and a public pocket prk is located near the driveway entrance. The public pocket park will provide the public with a shaded and landscaped oasis from Essex Street.

“…Substantial plantings are proposed interior to the site and along the street. Street trees are proposed along Willow and Essex streets. Fencing and dense landscaping will be used along the property lines to create buffers, particularly along the railroad tracks where a bird garden is proposed for the residents. The parking closest to Essex Street is also screened by landscaping and decorative fencing. The Dumpster, located in the southwestern corner of the property, will be fenced in to screen it from view.

“Site lighting has been designed to not spill onto adjacent properties….Pedestrian-scale lighting will be used within the landscaped areas and on exterior walls. Decorative pole lights will be used within the parking lot. At 14 feet, these pole lights are much shorter than the conventional style of pole lighting. Along the project’s frontage, the Victorian style lights that define downtown Melrose will be used. A total of six Victorian lights are proposed at regular intervals along the project’s frontage,” the Planning Board decision stated, in part.