Town Meeting voted to change the zoning for four parcels with the intention of supporting more biotech and medical device industry in town.
The sites in question were 1, 2, 10 and 20 Wall Street, all properties owned by the Gutierrez Company. 1 Wall Street is the building on the left when entering from Cambridge Street, 2 Wall Street is the parcel where Jack’s Coal Fire Pizza and Temazcal are located, 10 Wall Street is the plaza with the business including Dunkin Donuts and 20 Wall Street is where Harvard Vanguard is located.
Gutierrez Vice President of Development Scott Weiss said the plan is to completely change the zoning at 1 and 20 and the parking lots of 2 and 10 Wall Street from General Business to Industrial High-Rise while leaving the businesses and restaurants as General Business.
The reason, he explained, is that Industrial High-Rise is more attractive to biotech companies because they can locate in the type of zoning by right. This can cut down on the time the process for approval takes, something important to companies in a fast-growing industry.
The reason for leaving the plaza and restaurant building the same is that if those properties were rezoned to Industrial High-Rise the businesses would technically be out of compliance.
Weiss said Gutierrez wants to make the changes because of the belief that office space will not go back to full capacity after the pandemic and that biotech is the way of the future. He pointed to other successful projects they have completed, such as Milipore-Sigma, in the industry and said they wanted to create a “medical campus” at their Wall Street property. He also pointed out that Town Meeting has made multiple moves, such as updating the Industrial High-Rise zoning, to make Burlington more attractive to life science businesses.
“A lot of efforts by this Town Meeting and the different boards have been recognized and Burlington is seen as one of the best life science clusters in the region,” he said.
Weiss also said that while the company is not going to take any actions, such as changing rent, to push the existing buildings out, there is a belief they may not be there for the long haul.
“This site has been a challenge,” he said. “It was built in a different era and it’s a bit tucked away. Also the Temazcal and Jack’s site is a very big building for a restaurant and probably not the best location for a restaurant.”
Planning Board Chair Brenda Rappaport said the board had voted 6-1 in favor of changing the zoning at 1 and 20 Wall Street but 1-6 against changing the parking lots of 2 and 10. She said members felt that it would be potentially damaging for the businesses in the plaza and pointed out that X-Golf, a virtual golf simulator, is still in the works of opening up there.
“If it gets to the point nobody is leasing, come back to us,” she said. “But let’s not put the cart before the horse.”
In the end Town Meeting approved the zoning changes put forward by Gutierrez.