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Overlook Ridge developers seek zoning ordinance change to nullify hotel agreement

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Developers hope to replace hotel with small retail store and affordable housing


By Barbara Taormina


The decades-long project of turning the former Rowe’s Quarry into Overlook Ridge, a huge residential development on the Revere-Malden-Saugus border, is nearly complete. But this week, a representative of Veris Residential, one of the three owners of Overlook, was at the City Council meeting for a public hearing on their request for a change to the zoning ordinance that created the Overlook Ridge Overlay District. Veris is asking to remove a requirement that developers build a hotel on a parcel next to the Malden-Revere co-op fire station on Overlook Drive, a hotel promised to the late City Councillor George Colella back in 2008 when Revere’s portion of the development only allowed for residential. Instead, Veris wants a green light for retail establishments that would meet the needs and demands of the 4,000 residents in the complex.

Removing the hotel requirement also allows Veris to move forward with a plan to build a final apartment building – adding 310 more units to Overlook. According to Veris, the new building is smaller and less dense than the 370-unit, eight-story building allowed by right. And Veris has agreed to make 15 percent of the new units affordable.

City Planner Tom Skwierawski supported the requested change. “The changes presented are reasonable,” Skwierawski told the council. “There’s a reduced need for a hotel at this location, and a real need for neighborhood retail.”

Skwierawski also applauded the plan to offer 15 percent of the new units at affordable rates. “That’s the most aggressive for affordable housing we’ve seen from a private sector partner that isn’t being subsidized by federal or state funding,” he said.

Although Overlook has made and broken promises in the past to both Revere and Malden, City Councillors were enthusiastically in support of giving Veris the requested relief. “I agree it’s not a good location for a hotel,” said Councillor-at-Large Marc Silvestri, who also praised Veris for the commitment to affordable housing.

Silvestri did have one request: He asked if Veris would be willing to raise an American flag on the rocks in the back parking lot. Silvestri said that every spring, residents across from Overlook fly a gigantic American flag and they asked if Overlook could install a flagpole.

The rep from Veris quickly agreed. “It’s hard to say no to the flag,” he said.

Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto said that when he first heard the plan to eliminate the hotel he was freaking out, but that was a long time ago, he said.

“We’ve put up six hotels since then; we don’t need a hotel up there,” said Zambuto, who added that retail is desperately needed in the neighborhood.

And you set a new mark with affordable housing,” he said.

Ward 6 Councillor Chris Giannino thanked Veris for its commitment to address the infrastructure improvements needed at the Overlook Drive fire station. The road and a sewer line need to be moved from the back of the station to the front. That change will yield the necessary space for planned retail businesses.

Ward 5 Councillor Angela Guarino-Sawaya commended Veris for the agreement on affordable housing and asked what type of retail Veris is considering. The development company envisions a small green grocer, or Bodega, where residents can pick up milk and bread – not a big box grocery store.

The council’s Zoning Subcommittee will review the request from Veris at their meeting on April 8.

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