Neighbors Proposing Mixed-Use Project on Railroad Avenue

June 9, 2023
Here is a rendering of what the proposed mixed-use project on Railroad Avenue would look like. HDS Architecture

A young married couple with real-estate experience has prepared plans for a mixed-use development on a barren 38,000-square-foot Railroad Avenue parcel.

Matt and Lizzie Dillon want to build a 9,500-square-foot structure featuring 18 apartments on the second and third floors, and two first-floor storefronts and 17 parking spaces on the ground floor, at 1 Railroad Ave., near the corner of South Road. The plans also feature an 1,800-square-foot retail building next to a small park, as well as parking spaces.   

The first regulatory step for the proposal is scheduled with the Conservation Commission for Wednesday evening, June 14. The developer is seeking an order of conditions to comply with local and state wetlands protection rules. Part of the northwest area of the lot is within 50-and 100-foot buffer zones bordering wetlands vegetation.

The Dillons, who live around the corner on Fern Way, intend to file documents with the Planning Department on Friday, which they hope will lead to a hearing for a special permit from the Planning Board, required under the Depot Area Mixed Use Overlay District.

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Matthew Dillon said he would like to start construction as soon as all permitting and documents are complete. 

“We want to do things the right way,” he said. “This is our home.” 

There are five residential properties within 100 feet of the site, all on South Road and Loomis Street.

Dillon said he and Lizzie were driving on Railroad Avenue around Thanksgiving when they spotted a for-sale sign on the lot, which for the past few years has served as a parking area for some of Bedford Charter Service’s fleet of school buses.

“We were immediately interested – it’s right in our backyard,” Dillon said. “We studied the overlay to understand what the town was trying to achieve with the district.” 

In January, they began seeking input from town professionals and staff: the planning director, conservation administrator, code enforcement director, and fire prevention officer.

There have been three or four iterations of the plans since then, Dillon said, and “the town staff has been wonderful, giving us feedback.” Now, he said, “We have something we really are proud of, and excited” about.

“Liz and I are in real estate management and development,” Dillon said. 

He said he learned first-hand about commercial and industrial real estate as a youngster from his father’s business, and has been on his own for about 10 years. Dillon said in 2016 he developed Waltham Landing, a 34-unit mixed-use project near the commuter rail station, and still manages the project.

The Railroad Avenue buildings are not “a plan that was thrown together,” Dillon said. “We really are proud of it. This could be a center of gravity for the town.” 

He pointed out that the 9,500-square-foot main building is no bigger than three new single-family homes.

The 18 residential units on the second and third floors break down to eight with two bedrooms, eight with one bedroom, and two studio units. Dillion said they haven’t decided yet whether the units will be rented or sold, but either way, 10 percent will be added to the town’s inventory of affordable housing.

 “We really wanted to do something that benefits the town,” he said, noting that the retail building and adjacent park could serve as “a place you could come and shop and watch your kids playing outside.”    

He noted that the land, which has been bereft of buildings for decades, is still owned by Ken and Caroline Larson, with purchase subject to regulatory approval. The project is considered redevelopment because at one time there were commercial buildings there.

Atty. Pamela Brown will be representing the Dillons, who are also working with the BSC Group and HDS Architecture of Cambridge.

The language of the overlay district bylaw promotes walkability, and Dillon noted that plans call for a sidewalk along his entire Railroad Avenue frontage. He added that curb cuts will be aligned with the arrangement on the other side of the street to facilitate vehicle and pedestrian flow, especially since there is town parking there.

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Dave Draper
June 12, 2023 9:51 am

featuring 18 apartments on the second and third floors, and two first-floor storefronts and 17 parking spaces on the ground floor”

17 parking spaces is not enough unless there will be additional ones that are not listed in this article. It seems to me you would need at least 1 parking space per residential unit and then additional parking spaces for retail staff and customers.

Renter
June 10, 2023 6:20 pm

Hello! As a lifetime single female renter, I myself prefer residential only properties. I feel safer with the general public not on site, and the knowledge that a liquor store or alcohol-serving eatery is not on site. That said, it’s wonderful so much thought has been put into the project!

Ted T. Martin
June 10, 2023 11:35 am

Sounds like a good plan to me, that has been a “non area” for far too many years; the old “coal and grain” as it were…

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