WORCESTER — The Planning Board Wednesday approved a definitive site plan for the redevelopment of the former St. Peter-Marian Junior/Senior High School into a continuing care retirement community.
The board approved the site plan for the planned three-story, multi-winged, 145-unit retirement community, and also approved a special permit for the continuing care retirement community use for Goddard Homestead Inc., which is purchasing the nearly 24-acre site from the Diocese of Worcester, which for decades operated the school there.
The plans call for the school and associated parking lots to be demolished and replaced with the 135,000-square-foot facility, which will essentially consolidate Goddard Homestead's current operations — a retirement community on Main Street and a nursing home-level facility on Homestead Avenue, Goddard/Homestead attorney Mark Borenstein told the board.
Borenstein said the project meets all the requirements regarding definitions and intent laid out in the zoning ordinance regarding continuing care retirement communities. He said the facility will offer on-site dining, access to transportation, a licensed social worker, access to third-party medical care, respite care, daily activities, a resident director, and other amenities.
As part of the continuing care retirement community requirements, 25% of the property will be set aside for open space; Borenstein said much of the vegetative barrier separating the property from the neighborhood will be left in place, and he said the current athletic fields will also be retained as open space.
The plan for the community also includes a wrap-around sidewalk, reduced impervious surfaces, and an outdoor gathering area.
Board members were receptive to Goddard Homestead's presentation, and they felt like the project fit the bill for a continuing care retirement community more than many other applications the board hears.
Board member Ellie Gilmore said she was pleased to see the extensive slate of services and a consistent on-site presence, and was pleased to see an expansion of green space. She said she was confident the project met the intent of the CCRC regulations.
Board member Edward Moynihan said it appeared to be a well-thought-out plan; he asked Borenstein about plans for expansion on the site, since it could potentially have upward of 200 units.
Borenstein said Goddard Homstead is currently focused on the 145 units proposed, and is working on a 5- to 10-year plan. He said Goddard Homestead is purchasing the property from the diocese, with the exception of 751 Grove St., a property most recently used as a child care center.
Board members said they would have liked to have seen less parking on the site, even though the developer received a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals to go below the minimum required number of spaces.
Residents who called in to the virtual meeting had concerns about blasting during construction, and water issues that have plagued certain sections of the neighborhood. Kevin Dandrade, a principal with TEC doing engineering work on the project, said there are strict requirements that come with blasting permits, and he said assessments will be done to neighboring properties before any blasting occurs. He said he didn't think extensive blasting would be required.