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June 9, 2014

After downturn, city's commercial climate is on upswing

Those wondering whether the city’s commercial appeal is returning following the recent economic downturn can look to several proposed construction projects to see that recovery appears to be here.

In 2007, developer Leonidas Theodorou developed a proposal for a small business complex at the Route 1 rotary. He called off plans the following year, in part because of the falling economy.

Last week, he was back before the Planning Board, and the panel approved his proposal for a 12,000-square-foot, two-story structure at 190 State St., on land formerly occupied by a supply shop for birders.

The structure will have about five stores on the ground floor, and perhaps as many business offices on the second level, when several minor conditions are met.

Spokesmen for the Topsfield developer suggested that the financial climate wasn’t right for investment here until now.

Not far from the rotary, a 67-unit apartment complex is being proposed.

This is a planner’s delight, in that the units will be adjacent to the MBTA station. City officials see “synergy” between a residential complex being placed in walking distance of a commuter rail line.

Final approvals have not been obtained, but the proposal appears to have support from City Hall, the real estate community and the affordable-housing leadership.

And the prospect of another residential development project surfaced last week: a subdivision at the corner of Low Street and Crow Lane.

Owners of the old Colby Farm have put the 12-acre parcel in play, and the Planning Board accepted the suggestion that eight residential lots be created. Some of this acreage is wetlands, and discussion will be forthcoming about exactly where units would be sited and how much open space can be retained.

Some City Hall skeptics have suggested that the corner of Low and Crow is not an idyllic site for home-buyers because scores of cars and trucks pass the area daily on their way to the recycling/compost center. Also, odors from the landfill on Crow Lane continue at times to plague the neighborhood during the capping process.

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