Planning board approves redevelopment of Stickney Avenue site

By JAMIE L. COSTA

Monitor staff

Published: 03-20-2023 1:00 PM

A proposed housing development off Stickney Avenue in Concord to renovate five former Department of Transportation buildings into multifamily housing units that was once a point of contention between the state and city has received the green light to move forward.

Brady-Sullivan of Manchester, one of the state’s biggest developers, plans to turn the dilapidated Department of Transportation site into 80 housing units to consist of single, double and triple bedroom first-floor apartments. The 6-acre parcel, tucked between Storrs Street and I-93, was approved for subdivision last year.

The property, which has been vacant for the last 17 years and deemed historical, has extensive environmental issues associated with prior land uses and activities on the property to include petroleum storage tanks, lead paint and asbestos containing materials. This type of contamination is common on formal industrial properties.

As part of the conditional use permit and major site plan approval, the planning board required that the developers manage any and all environmental hazards that have or could arise during excavation and construction.

“There are a number of site investigations that have been completed on this property since 1996 and continues to be monitored twice a year,” said Tim Andrews of the Nobis Group, an engineering company dedicated to health and safe environments. “During construction, if something unknown is discovered, which frequently happens, it will be reported.”

The state highway department bought the land in 1925 and over the next three decades built five buildings for storage and maintenance of state vehicles. It was used by the Department of Transportation until 2006 when a new DOT facility opened on Hazen Drive. 

A larger renovation of the buildings will likely reveal contaminated building materials, like lead paint and asbestos, which will be renovated in accordance with all residential requirements, Andrews continued.

“I fully support the redevelopment of this project,” said former planning board member John Regan during public comment. “This is a high profile site that is underutilized and is an eye sore. I also support the concept of brownfield developments at all levels to get more use out of them.”

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Throughout the nation and most commonly in the New England area, the redevelopment of former industrial sites for the purpose of adding housing to cities and communities is very common and done frequently, Andrews said.

However, councilor Byron Champlin questioned why developers aren’t consolidating the buildings and increasing their height to increase density in the city to which Brady-Sullivan architect Chris Lewis said it would take away from the historic value of the site.

“This is such a key site in Concord and will continue to be with the extension of Storrs Street and seems like a terrible waste of vertical space to be renovating these ancient one-story sheds,” Champlin said. “We could be doing something more significant.”

The sale agreement between the state and Brady Sullivan surprised city officials in 2021 since they had been in talks to buy the land at 11 Stickney Avenue. By law, municipalities get a first shot at buying unused state property.

Gov. Chris Sununu denied the public access to the records of the sale negotiations, citing executive privilege. 

Long-term state plans call for expanding I-93 through Concord and changing the layout ramps of exit 13 and 14. Concord has plans to extend Storrs Street to the north, opening the city-owned land adjacent to this parcel for development which adds complexity to the site’s proximity to the roadways.

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