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Braintree Resident Aims to See Independence Ave Property Turnaround

The long-distressed property at 7-11 Independence Ave. is being developed by Tom Fitzgerald but faces many hurdles.

When Scott Palmer was in middle and high school, he worked at his father's warehouse on Independence Avenue, sweeping floors and doing other odd jobs.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Robert Palmer built a successful truck moving company there, A&T Movers, featuring a fleet of red, white and blue trucks. In 1985, as the business grew larger, he re-located to a state-of-the-art warehouse in Quincy, eventually winning a contract with UPS.

"The place was absolutely beautiful," Palmer said in a recent interview, reflecting on the history of his father's property at 7-11 Independence Ave. that with developer Tom Fitzgerald he is hoping to revitalize.

"At one point it was a very industrious, productive venture," Palmer said. "If there is anyone who is sad about how it looks now it is me."

Palmer, who lives on the property in a single-family home built in the 1980s, said he wants his neighbors and other Braintree residents to know that the proposed development would not be a windfall for him, and that he is foremost looking to make whole a piece of land that has been in his family for decades.

"I'm committed to wrapping up my late father's business responsibly," Palmer said. "At the end of the day there's no pot of gold."

Attorney Jack Garland presented a proposal earlier this month to the Planning Board that called for 36 residential units, a scaled-back version of last year's proposal that also included commercial space.

Board members criticized the proposal, calling it too "aggressive" for the neighborhood and questioning parking and other issues. Garland said he and Fitzgerald would incorporate the feedback and return with answers to members' questions.

Palmer, a chef with a healthy prepared foods company and a background in developing and selling restaurants in Hanover and Natick, said he is no longer involved in making decisions about the future of the property, and that he trusts Fitzgerald moving forward.

"I'm not frustrated by [the pushback]," Palmer said. "I respect the town's decisions."

Last fall, Braintree officials approved re-zoning a portion of the property from Residence B to General Business with the goal of making the area suitable for development.

Without Fitzgerald agreeing to take over the property and build on it, Garland told officials that the land would likely continue to sit untouched, with back taxes owed and environmental cleanup stalled.

The property began to fall into disrepair several years after Palmer's father began focusing his attention on business elsewhere. After 1990 it "never had the same life," Palmer said.

Robert Palmer died in a motorcycle accident in Florida in November 2001 at age 61. He had formed a corporation for his property back in the 1970s, Palmer said, but did not have a will. Palmer's parents had divorced years earlier and his father's sudden death left no one to take responsibility, and so the property sat in limbo.

A few years later, Palmer decided to take it on himself, and in 2006 he invested his own money in an initial environmental assessment. He decided to partner with Fitzgerald after he saw his Spice Lofts development in South Boston, a conversion of industrial space to residential use.

Back when Palmer worked at his father's warehouse, he remembers that he could just make out the Boston skyline from the roof. One day soon he hopes to stand atop the new 7-11 Independence Ave. and do the same.

"I like to bring things to fruition," Palmer said. "That was my goal, my intent."

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