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Allen Street Project Waiting on Thaw

The Allen Street development plan, presented in a November report, awaits an oil tanker removal.

Last November, a report laid out three development options for the former Allen Street property, following several months of public input and work by a group of architects, landscape architects and designers.

Now the project appears to be in a holding pattern, waiting on final clearance of the site before formal business interest can be developed and East Braintree residents find out what kind of overhaul the riverfront property will see.

BELD, which previously generated electricity at the 1.6-acre site, believes there is an abandoned oil storage tank that must be removed before any renovation can move forward, GM Bill Bottiggi said in an email.

"Once the snow clears we will be making plans to remove the tank," Bottiggi said. "[Development] will probably take some time though to come to fruition."

The utility's board voted already to turn the property over to the town, Bottiggi said, and a formal transfer will likely take place by late spring or early summer. Mayor Joseph Sullivan's office is also examining a structural evaluation provided by BELD of the largest building to determine if it can be reused, an important factor in possible development options.

Sullivan's office did not respond to requests for information about the evaluation.

Community goals for the site, as laid out in the November report, include showcasing the river, providing public access and parking, utilizing existing buildings as possible, maintaining views for Allen Street abutters and creating a quiet, beautiful space that can be an asset for the neighborhood.

Three designs – an arts and culture center, conference and wellness center and active adult community – each satisfy some of those goals but not all, and economic viability must all be taken into account, said David Gamble, an architect and liaison for the Community Design Resource Center of Boston, a non-profit organization that prepared the report.

During the public hearing process, Gamble said, his group “arrived at a certain balance between development and open space," though too much open space, he cautioned, "may not be economically sustainable."

It may be difficult, for instance, to attract real estate developers without a certain amount of housing potential. And the third option in the report, an adult active community, may actually be best suited for avoiding additional traffic woes in the area because vehicles would be entering and leaving during what is already rush hour, Gamble said. Numbers one and two, meanwhile, could produce traffic all throughout the day.

A hybrid of the three, then, could be the best option, especially including the old buildings. "Personally, from an architect’s stand point, it would be a shame to demolish all the buildings," Gamble said.

East Braintree Civic Association President David Oliva said after a recent meeting about the that a small amount of condominiums, combined with public access and resources, would be a good alternative.

During that meeting, it was announced that Allen Street would not be included in state-funded streetscaping because town officials did not want to complete work there later this year only to see it torn up with future construction.

District 3 Councilor Tom Bowes said he would like to see residents have water access to connect with .

"It would be nice if we can get a year-round coffee shop, along with maybe a building for say seniors only and then... maybe a nice type of studio, possibly commercial based," Bowes said in an email. "As for the time frame, it should not be an issue, as we want to make sure that the property is cleaned up and that we have the right developer."

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