September 19, 2008

Redevelopment plans emerge for Saxonville Lumber site

The owner of the 5+-acre site housing the one-time Saxonville Lumber business has plans to put two buildings there: one housing a health club and medical office, the other for retail space, the MetroWest Daily News reports. This looks like good news indeed for the neighborhood, which has seen a key piece of the business district lie mostly fallow for more than a decade.

I'll be very interested to see details , which the News says may be before the Planning Board Oct. 16. I'm hoping plans include an attractive pedestrian streetscape -- meaning at least one building near the sidewalk, with an attractive facade and landscaping that make it appealing to walk by and to; there should be an obvious, appealing way that pedestrians can get to the businesses by walking. Saxonville is (for the most part) one of Framingham's few walkable neighborhoods, and we need to keep it that way. What we do not need is another strip mall with a moat of asphalt between pedestrians and businesses.

My ideal for the parcel would include a restaurant, cafe or other eaterie of some sort with outdoor seating in nice weather; nice landscaping, and some way patrons could take advantage of the river view. It's completely insane that we have no businesses in Saxonville that take advantage of proximity to the river.

First, owner Tony Kwan will be going to the Conservation Commission due to potential impact on nearby Cochituate Brook and the Sudbury River. Hopefully, that won't be a problem.


  1. Sharon, I've seen Tony's plan - he gave us a sneak preview at the Friends of Saxonville annual meeting last spring, and it includes a "pocket park" on the northwest corner of the property, right on the riverfront. It will be landscaped, have seating, and hopefully be a nice little respite for people walking down that section of Concord Street.

    There will not be street front buildings though - the existing buildings far back in the lot are going to be used after extensive renovations. I agree with everything you say, and though the project probably won't be everything we would like to see, I think it's going to be a massive improvement! Tony is a wise businessman, but also very community-oriented, and wants this development to improve the aesthetics of the village and be enjoyed by the public, not just turn a profit.

  2. Thanks, Brett. I missed the Friends of Saxonville presentation, but got to see some of the plans at Snackin' Saxonville yesterday (nice event!) and talked a bit with Tony Kwan. I agree that the plan as is would be a vast improvement to what's there now, and with a few minor tweaks, could be even better; I'm hoping he's open to suggestions. Will be blogging about my impressions this morning.

  3. Glad you made it to the event and enjoyed it, Sharon. It completely slipped my mind that Tony would probably be there with his plans when I posted my original comment. The 3D model was new and a really cool addition to the presentation.

    In between manning some of the food tables (I was the bearded guy in the Saxonville hat and shades) I gave my usual historic walking tour of the village. It's always a delight for me to walk people past buildings they've driven by numerous times and give them a fresh perspective on the history and usage of them. Even people who grew up in Saxonville usually learn a new fact or two. Much of what I talk about on the tour is in our new walking tour brochure - it can be downloaded from the Friends of Saxonville web site, and printed copies are being distributed around town. I try to ensure there's always a supply at the McAuliffe library branch.

    When the State Lumber site renovation is done, it will be an interesting footnote for future walking tours to explain the re-use of the site and how the pocket park has given some river views back to pedestrians.