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Tour looks to aid development in MetroWest

September 28, 2011 – On a tour of areas for future development projects, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki looked at sites along Interstate 495 on Monday, assessing their economic potential.

The trip brought Bialecki to a vacant, 2.4 million square-foot area on Forest Street in Marlborough, a mixed-use property that straddles Bartlett Street in Northborough to the grounds of the former Westborough State Hospital off Lyman Street in Westborough.

“We’re looking ahead to prepare areas and agree to what kind of development could go on,” Bialecki said, “so when developers come in, the state can show them options of where their business could work best and be accepted by local residents.”

He said these three sites were purposefully chosen for the tour because the towns have a history of supporting new development.

“People want to live in these communities and developers want to grow here,” Bialecki said. “But it’s a question of how to make room for growth without impacting the quality of life.”

Atlantic Management, based in Framingham, recently purchased land at 200 Forest Street in Marlborough. Although the company doesn’t have plans to develop the site, President Joseph Zink said there is a lot of potential.

Marlborough Building Commissioner Stephen Reid said the site is close to I-495’s Simarano Drive exit, offering easy access.

Development on the Northborough site has already begun, with a 220,000-square-foot building on the north side of Bartlett Street and 92 acres of land that can be developed on the southern side.

“There’s a lot of interest in Northborough,” said Scott Weiss, managing director of commercial development of The Gutierrez Co. “There’s been a lot of growth on the industrial side of the market.”

Weiss said his company has already worked with Northborough to obtain permits for development.

In Westborough, Town Manager Jim Malloy and Town Planner Jim Robbins brought Bialecki to see the recreation fields and former administration building on the Westborough State Hospital property.

Over the past year, a state commission has fielded ideas for the property’s reuse. But when the commission’s contractor, Sasaki Associates, suggested the best use of the property would be to add commercial and office space and build more than 500 homes, Westborough officials decided to consider purchasing the property to preserve it as open space.

Also with this site, the National Register of Historic Places protects many of the buildings and any development must maintain the footprint and design of the existing buildings.

“Our challenge is to maintain the integrity of the site,” Robbins said.

Robbins said there are four buildings that could easily be renovated, but there are more than 40 left in disrepair. He said the town is working to have the restrictions on less significant buildings lifted so some structures can be demolished.

This story originally appeared here