The Braintree-Weymouth Landing District hopes to become a mecca for businesses with the help of zoning amendments that will make it easier for retailers to set up shop.
“[In the past], it’s kind of failed,” said Christine Stickney, who is planning director for Braintree and heading up the project.
“Quite a few shops have closed up – it’s struggling, to say the least. So when Mayor [Joseph] Sullivan came on board, he made it a priority. He wanted to see if there were things we could do to help it,” she said.
The first step was obtaining a Public Works Economic Development grant from the state. That resulted in the two towns receiving $2.4 million for the project to aid the visual components of the space by renovating everything from crosswalks to streetlights to bus shelters.
Now that the plans for construction are under way, both towns want to change the restrictions for the area, with the hope of having retailers rush to the new space by the time construction finishes in the spring of 2012.
In Braintree, the zoning amendments under review in the Planning Board mostly involve permitting and parking.
“We’re basically allowing a lot more use by right rather than requiring special permits, so more business use can go down there,'' said Stickney. "We are relaxing some of the requirements for setbacks and parking requirements, and we’ve enhanced the sign law for that region, and we’re really just trying to work with the business community to get something moving down there.”
Jim Clark, director of planning and community development for Weymouth, said his town's zoning amendments are similar to Braintree’s.
“There are some differences in how we do administrative things. We tried to mirror them as best we could,” Clark said. “The uses are … generally the same, but they are a little different. [For example], we do allow a drive-through with a special permit, they do not.”
With a higher density of stores planned here more than anywhere else in the towns, Stickney said, both sides are eager to get new business in the space.
“Given that we’re coming out of a recession, it might be difficult, but we wanted to make sure we have these things in place so when it goes upward, we have these things done,” she said.
In Braintree, the changes will first need to be approved by the Planning Board and later by Town Council. Weymouth will have a joint public hearing with its Planning Board and council to also approve the changes.
All in all, the project is gaining momentum in both towns.
“We’re hoping to get the shovel in the ground early spring of next year,” Clark said.