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6 Takeaways From the June 13 Planning Board Meeting: Tree House Unveils Retail Plan, Bakery Build Resumes

The Tewksbury Planning Board met last night, minus member Eric Ryder. Here are some highlights.

1. Tewksbury in line for additional $50,000 in sidewalk funding. Community/economic development planner Alexandra Lowder reported that Senator Barry Finegold submitted an amendment to earmark $50,000 for design of a sidewalk in the area of Balance Spa, at 1866 Main St., including signal updates to the intersection at Main St. and Livingston St. Lowder thanked Finegold for that effort as well as his office’s work to secure additional financial support for Tewksbury Police and Fire for their responses to the State Hospital.

“That hasn’t been made permanent yet, but it is an ongoing effort that Senator Finegold’s office has kept me updated on,” said Lowder.

2. Dates set for two-day Fall Festival. In her role as chair of the recently dissolved Public Events and Celebration Committee, Lowder also shared that the Community Market kicks off this Thursday at Livingston Street from 4 to 7 p.m. and runs through September 29.

A newly expanded Fall Festival will take place over two days, Saturday, Oct. 1 and Sunday, Oct. 2, for the first time this year. A wide range of events are planned, possibly including a fireworks display.

3. Town to gain multiple new dining options. “I’m sure you’ve seen activity at 1060 Main St., the former Skewers,” said Lowder. She reports that the new owners have building permits in hand and construction is underway on a Mediterranean style restaurant called Pera Grill.

“They also own and operate a restaurant called Paprika Grill in Salem, Mass.,” said Lowder. “It looks like a really delicious menu.

In addition, the former Mirabella’s Bakery at 836 Main St. is set to become a test kitchen for Italian food, named Brelundi. That will be after a complete interior renovation and some exterior improvements, including demolition of an existing house on the property to provide more parking in what is a notoriously tight lot. The owners have an existing restaurant in Waltham and plan a scaled-down operation in Tewksbury with mostly prepared to-go and frozen meals, including pastas, olive oils and other specialties. The eatery specializes in homemade arancini, which it distributes to outlets including Market Basket. Check out the menu.

Once you grab some pasta, you can stop in at 1866 Main St., formerly Santander Bank, which is finally in the process of transforming into a bakery, renamed La Vida Dolce. Lowder reports that building permits were issued on June 8 and that if all goes well the site will open by year’s end.

The Starbucks approved for the former Eastern Bank site is also on track to open this year.

4. The former Discount Madness site will remain empty, for now. Back in 2017, the Board issued a special permit to develop five retail units and seven apartments at 1325 Main St. Five years later the developer has decided to abandon the special permit and relinquish all rights under it, calling the current plan “simply not viable.” The proponent pointed to higher materials prices and supply chain issues.

However, before the bond associated with that permit will be released, the Board wants to see the lot cleaned up significantly and made safe for any residents who may walk through the area.

“What are your plans for the fencing and debris on the site now?” asked Board member Vinny Fratalia, calling the site unsightly and unsafe. “There is no way that I’m going to allow the release of the bond until you fully comply with getting that site cleaned, maintained and presentable for the rest of the town that drives by and looks at it.”

5. Bye bye, berries. In the wake of a dispute over the installation of a drainage and catch-basin system at 60 Highland View Rd. before the project was presented to the Board and without the required permits or inspections, the proponent of a modular greenhouse operated by an intelligent robotics system has pulled out of Tewksbury.

The greenhouse was expected to produce some 25,000 pounds of berries annually, but the build was subject to a number of delays, with the owners traveling from Europe at one point to try to move the project through the permitting process. But the most recent setback seems to have been a deal breaker.

“It didn’t seem to make sense to modify the plans and wait for a different use of the building,” said consultant Matt Hamor. “So at this time, we’d like to withdraw.

Lowder recommended that the Board approve a withdrawal without prejudice, in case the project were to come back. That motion was approved unanimously.

6. Tree House reveals retail pick-up location plan. Sarah Maggi Morin, chief of staff for Tree House Brewing, accompanied by design consultants, presented the concept for turning the current salon and office building in the lot of the Tewksbury Country Club into an expanded facility for Tree House’s retail pickup service. At the company’s other sites, customers use the Tree House app to place their orders and select a window of time for pickup, minimizing traffic. Employees deliver orders to customers’ cars from a cooled beverage storage and sorting facility.

The Board, while welcoming the brewery, was unimpressed by the initial plans as presented (see site plan and elevations below).

“It’s one of the most, if not the most, attractive sites in Tewksbury,” said Board member Bob Fowler. “And looking at the architectural renderings for the addition on the back of the building, I’m a little disenchanted.”

The Board requested some adjustments, including faux windows and potentially a mansard-style roof to hide cooling units. They ultimately approved the concept in keeping with the streamlined site plan review process mandated by the new zoning bylaw.

Maggi Morin declined to speculate on when sales might begin but assured individuals and groups that have the TCC booked through the end of the year that their events will proceed as planned.

“Our plan is to evolve the main event space into an inviting beer hall with a retail store,” said Maggi Morin. “We’re going to operate a golf course and the various amenities that feed that golf course.”

She also discussed with the board and Lowder plans for extensive traffic studies, addressing a concern raised by an East St. resident who spoke at the meeting.

Lorna is a 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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