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Tag: Lynnfield

Meadow Walk DEIR Comment Letter

Meadow Walk DEIR Comment Letter

March 21, 2008

Secretary Ian Bowles
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114
Attn: MEPA Office, Anne Cannaday, MEPA Analyst

RE: Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR)
Meadow Walk at Lynnfield
MEPA # 14096

Dear Mr. Bowles:

We have reviewed the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for Meadow Walk at Lynnfield, a proposed mixed-use retail, office and residential redevelopment of a portion of the Sheraton Colonial Golf course in Lynnfield and Wakefield. We are encouraged that walking is such a major organizing feature of the development and that the Town of Lynnfield is firmly implementing its design standards for the project.

We are commenting because of the need to continue promoting new ways to encourage pedestrian safety and access in suburban development throughout Massachusetts. In this project, the design details can help in making it pedestrian friendly.

 

Summary of comments:

  •  A change has been made in parking lot design to incorporate landscaped swales. These swales could be used creatively to offer an opportunity for pedestrian walkways through the parking lots. If equipped with walkways, the swales could be integrated into a network of pedestrian ways. New safety measures such as crosswalks and signage should be added.
  •  As proposed, the perimeter road remains a relatively high-speed roadway. Speeds should be mitigated by signage, traffic control measures and traffic calming installations.
  •  Because the residences and the town center are separated by the perimeter road and parking lots, it remains difficult to imagine much walking between these two components of the project. It would be more encouraging for people to walk if the two were located closer together, and were not divided by so much vehicle circulation.
  •  Pervious sidewalks are now a feature of the design of the residential areas. Walkways at the edges of water and marshy areas should also be paved with pervious materials.
  •  The former golfing fairway between the Saugus River, the Lynn Canal and Route 128/95 should be designated as open space with walkways. If signage for the shopping center is needed in this area, it would not substantially detract from this use.
  •  Guiding principles for this project call for the use of traffic calming techniques, traffic controls and signage elements. All should be detailed and mapped in future documents.
  •  Paving materials that are selected and put in place should maximize wide, smooth surfaces where wheelchairs or carriages can be used in comfort.
  •  Retaining an option for additional pedestrian access between site walkways and Walnut Street will make a future walking network more complete.

 

Walking in the parking lots
Town design standards for Meadow Walk at Lynnfield call for large parking lots to be divided into blocks of no more than 200 spaces, with each parking block separated from others by a landscaped area that is a minimum of 10 feet wide. Standards also call for 7 percent of the area of large parking lots to be landscaped. The town design standards do not address the safety of walking in the parking lots.

In following these directives, the proponent has begun to humanize the site’s large parking lots by dividing parking areas into blocks of 200 cars or less divided by long, rhythmically spaced, vegetated biofiltration swales perpendicular to the service drives at the rear of Main Street’s business structures and the perimeter road. The swales are designed as 10-foot wide landscaped, unpaved areas that collect and distribute runoff from the parking areas and filter it through soil and plantings.

From review of diagrams in the report, it appears that the swales, with design modifications and/or widening, could also serve as walkways. Flat walkways on each side of the sloped portion of the swales could be an integral part of the landscaping and provide safer walking through the parking lots. If built of pervious materials, the walkways would help with the biofiltration functions. The walkways would give safe access for walkers who otherwise are forced to wander among vehicles in the midst of the expansive parking areas. The walkways could be part of the 7% of the parking lot area that must be landscaped.

Safe methods for pedestrians to cross the parking lots exist only in a few locations via sidewalks along access streets. Figures 1.4 and 9.2 show the pedestrian network for the project. Based on Figure 9.2, up to 15 parking lot walkways could be assembled along the biofiltration swales and along with the sidewalks accompanying the entrance streets.

Crosswalks, traffic controls/signage and traffic calming
Crosswalks at street crossings within the shopping and residential areas should be identified as part of the pedestrian network for the site. Crosswalks should also be provided at all major access into parking areas, such as the entrances to the Main Street shop groupings. Crosswalks should also be provided at walkways that may be added to the biofiltration swales.

Grade separated crosswalks are cited in responses to our EENF comments (C-003-002), but are not shown in this document. A grade separated crossing for pedestrians within the parking area that connects the Main Street Village Development with the walkway to the Reedy Meadow is cited in responses (C-003-007), but not shown in maps.

Traffic controls throughout the project should be detailed, along with signage that helps direct traffic and make the area safer for pedestrians. Signage should include wayfinding signs and signs relating to the residential areas, as needed.

Traffic calming is hinted at but not fully described. (See Response C-003-009 mentioning a “flush plaza area.” A full explanation of the traffic calming strategies is essential. These should include any raised intersections, narrowed streets, and curb extensions that make street crossings shorter and safer for pedestrians.

The Reedy Meadow/Saugus River/Lynn Canal Walkway
A walkway along the Reedy Meadow is proposed in Figures 1.4 and 9.2, (Pedestrian and Bicycle Circulation Plan), extending along the edge of the Saugus River to the bridge where Route 128/95 crosses the stream. The open space associated with this walkway is shown on Figure 5.1. (Plan Changes Since MEPA Submittal.) All paving done to construct this walkway should be made of pervious paving materials to absorb and filter associated run-off.

Details of the walkway along the Saugus River are shown in Figures 3.4 and 3.5 (Buffer Zone Improvement Plan and Saugus River Buffer Zone Improvement Plan). The Lynn Canal, which transports water from the Saugus River to the City of Lynn, will remain a permanent feature. It should be treated in a sensitive way, similar to the plans for the banks of the Saugus River. A buffer zone along the full length of the Lynn Canal is not included. (Figs 3.5 and 5.1)

The Saugus River buffer area affects about half of the Lynn Canal, lying between the Lynn Canal and Route 128/95 in an area that once was a fairway of the Sheraton Colonial Golf Course. The entire former fairway – perhaps 800 feet long – should be part of the designated on-site open space. This would protect the edges of the Lynn Canal, provide additional space for walking and set a welcoming landscaped area for the on-site shopping area. Even if the land is intended for installation of a large shopping center sign, the open space could remain useful as watershed buffer and as an asset for walkers.

Pedestrian access to Walnut Street
Despite adverse local comment, we continue to think that the option for additional pedestrian access between the site and Walnut Street should be retained. With increasing numbers of walkers, future walking possibilities and the need for such connections cannot now be foreseen. Without this access, pedestrians arriving via Walnut Street must enter near the Rte 128 ramps, a location with heavy traffic volumes.

Connecting the residences and shopping components
The on-site luxury housing (180 units) and the LIFE component (40 units) are wholly separated from retail/office uses by the perimeter roadway. The layout is not designed to maximize walking from the residential buildings into the mall. Walking from the LIFE component will be a primary mode of getting to the shops other than driving, as the shuttle bus does not appear to provide this service. Two crosswalks of the perimeter road are indicated between the residences and the main town center buildings. These crosswalks are located at the luxury apartments. We remain concerned that the crossings are located on the relatively high speed perimeter. Raised crosswalks at these locations have been cited but not shown. (See Response C-003-011.)

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this document. Please feel free to contact us for clarification or additional comments.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Meadow Walk at Lynnfield EENF Comment Letter

Meadow Walk at Lynnfield EENF Comment Letter

October 10, 2007

Secretary Ian Bowles
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

RE: Expanded Environmental Notification Form (EENF) Meadow Walk at Lynnfield
MEPA # 09800

Dear Mr. Bowles:

We have reviewed the EENF for Meadow Walk at Lynnfield, a proposed mixed-use retail, office and residential redevelopment of a portion of the Sheraton Colonial Golf course in Lynnfield and Wakefield. We are pleased that walking is being encouraged as a major organizing feature of the development – a worthy initiative. We are commenting because of the immense potential for incorporating extensive pedestrian access in mixed-use suburban development throughout Massachusetts.

WalkBoston is the Commonwealth’s leading advocate for pedestrians and safe walking. We work throughout the state – encouraging walking, advocating for pedestrian improvements and working for design improvements. We have extensive experience helping residents and local government with pedestrian issues, safe routes to school, and safer street crossings.

The proposed Meadow Walk at Lynnfield comprises 395,000 SF of retail space, 80,000 SF of office space and 200 housing units of which 40 are allocated to the Lynnfield Initiative for Elders (LIFE). It includes 3,438 parking spaces and will increase the number of vehicle trips generated by the site from 644 to 19,079 per day. The retail/office components of the development are designed to be a traditional Main Street where frontage is lined with retail outlets, and on-street parking and pedestrian amenities are key design elements.

The scale of the development is sprawling. Most of the buildings appear to be 1 story in the retail areas, with 2-story exceptions (shown in renderings of the central open space.) Buildings taller than 2 stories are included in the residential areas.

Summary of comments:

  •  The development appears to be primarily an outdoor mall, without roofed pedestrian walkways and with a street where an enclosed walkway inside a standard mall might ordinarily appear. Notwithstanding some token nods to pedestrians, the overall site is characterized by vast parking lots, relatively high-speed roadways around the lots, visibility from a major highway, and traffic that is dispersed around the site.
  •  Of the roughly 2 miles of roadway to be constructed, one half mile is truly pedestrian-friendly, while one mile serves solely vehicular traffic and another half mile serves the back side of the retail/office structures with little physical separation of pedestrian and vehicular movements.
  •  If pedestrian friendliness is to be a major selling point of the development, a great deal of adjustment should be made to the current design to incorporate elements more specifically encouraging to pedestrians.

 

Overall site plan

  •  A high density of uses in the center of the development, tapering toward the perimeter, does not appear as a guiding feature of the plan. High density encourages walkability.
  •  The proposed development rigorously separates land uses. The retail/office uses are separated from the residential uses and open spaces. Uses are not mixed within single structures (except perhaps for offices). Residences are not planned above stores or offices, though that would encourage walking.
  •  The street network could benefit from full integration of the interior Main Street with parking service streets and from street connections to the residential area.
  •  The existing Boston Sports Club building and Sheraton Hotel, which are to remain on the site, have not been integrated in any way with the proposed development. 
  • The comparably-scaled Mashpee Commons on Cape Cod offers a useful contrast in pedestrian friendliness. A similar development of 250,000 SF of retail space with 90 stores, Mashpee Commons has residential uses above many retail outlets, creating walkability as a major feature. Its circulation plan emphasizes the creation of traditional city blocks, multi-story structures that hold both retail and residential uses, 2 main streets with connections to minor streets that lead to all parking lots, some very smallscale stores, and mid-block meeting places and walkways. Westwood Station, being planned at Rte 128/I 95, has 1000 residential units above or adjacent to retail.

Relationship to Traditional Neighborhood Development Planning
The development adopts many of the current concepts about traditional neighborhood developments without full embrace of them. In particular, it has these distinctions:

  •  A roadway solely for vehicles extends around the perimeter of the site for approximately one mile, and the interior pedestrian-friendly street is roughly a half-mile in length. The interior street is paralleled by a street on the other side of the retail/office structures that is also about a half mile long but with few pedestrian friendly features.
  •  Transit service does not connect directly into the site and is not within walking distance.
  •  Proposed pedestrian access ways are tied to streets. All pedestrians must enter the site at locations where vehicles also enter. Pedestrian circulation is entirely along the sidewalks next to the streets. No off-street pedestrian walkways for circulation or for access to the site or nearby open space areas are provided.
  •  Additional pedestrian access to the site could be added on the Walnut Street frontage of the site owned by the project proponent. Without this access, pedestrians arriving via Walnut Street must enter near the Rte 128 ramps, a location with heavy traffic volumes.
  •  On-street parking is permitted only on the Main Street, (making the sidewalks safer with the protection of a row of cars separating pedestrians from the roadway) and not on either the perimeter street or access ways into parking lots.
  •  The location of the site next to a protected environmentally sensitive site suggests the possibility of pedestrian walkways or jogging paths for recreation at the site perimeter. These paths might link to the Sheraton Hotel via the bridge over the Saugus River.

The retail/office components

  •  The roadway network for the retail and office elements consists of a perimeter road, with access into parking lots from 14 separate intersections. Five short streets connect the parking lots and the Main Street.
  •  The project’s retail elements are organized around the spine of a traditional Main Street. The Main Street seems to serve a minimal circulation purpose, as it is a closed loop within the overall project, connected primarily at an entrance location to the Rte 128/I-95 access points for the project.
  •  The interior street is gently curved – a nice touch.
  •  The proportion of street frontage with active commercial uses that encourage walking may be limited because all of the stores will have entries facing both the street and the parking lots. Retail operations are unlikely to be able to support window displays or store-related activities on two street frontages of each site.
  •  All buildings appear to be designed for large-scale uses – perhaps big box stores that swallow up frontage unless broken up by smaller stores.
  •  Small structures do not appear to be included, but encouraging participation of small entrepreneurs can encourage outdoor browsing and pedestrian activity. 
  • Parking seems to be excessive. The 3,438 parking spaces for the development contrast with Mashpee Commons with less that half that number.
  • Open space in the retail/office area is limited to the small central square while open space outside the perimeter road is relatively lavish, because of abutting wetland. 
  • The interior shopping street should have a dense tree canopy to encourage walking.
  • Design standards for sidewalk and path construction were not provided. In some instances, greater widths will provide more public space and greater levels of activity.

The residential components
Residential units include luxury housing (160 units) and the LIFE component (40 units) wholly separated from retail/office uses by the perimeter street. This results in:

  •  The retail and office mall comes close to the residential units at the only part of the site without vast parking capacity on the mall side. Even here, pedestrians must cross the parking lots in front of the residential buildings before crossing the street into the mall.
  •  The residential access road (a part of the perimeter road around the site) is about 1500 ft long between parking access points and has only two access points into the residential parking lots. This layout suggests it may become a relatively high-speed roadway with hazards for walkers. Two pedestrian crosswalks are provided to cross this street at the luxury apartments. No crosswalks are indicated for the LIFE buildings.
  • Residential buildings could be grouped to reduce the impact on this environmentallysensitive location. Grouping would allow residential structures to be at a greater distance from the wetlands, while retaining the pleasant views.
  • There should be direct pedestrian access between the residential and retail/office uses. (Sidewalks are not always shown on the plans.) The possibility of a more direct connection might result in locating the residences inside the perimeter roadway where they can be more immediately adjacent to the retail/office uses.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this document, which offers great promise for improvements for pedestrians in a suburban setting. Please feel free to contact us for clarification or additional comments.

Sincerely,

Robert Sloane
Senior Planner