close
Parking space

Maple Shopping Plaza reconstruction unveiled at Longmeadow Planning Board meeting

LONGMEADOW – Longmeadow’s planning board heard plans at its November 2 meeting to rebuild Maple Shopping Centre, a plaza that burned down after a major fire on November 23, 2021. Plans have focused on larger storefronts and a new facade in the same footprint.

Diana Pun, representing Pun Longmeadow Realty, said the square “has been such a focal point in your lives”, noting the holiday dinners prepared by Armata’s Market and the people who prepared for special occasions at the Longmeadow Salon. The “tragic” fire will allow them to rebuild the 62-year-old structure with a “better shopping experience” in mind, she said.

Capital Studio Architects Principal Architect David Holmes, along with Architect-in-Training Damoy Porteous and Engineering Manager Suzanne Choate of Design Professionals, presented plans for the rebuilt Maple Mall.

Holmes began with an update on the demolition of the existing structure. He said the hazardous materials component of the demolition is complete and the remaining walls will be demolished within three weeks.

The start of construction has been pushed back from December to early 2023. Holmes told the board that the building should be finished within a year. The car park may take a further two and a half months, if the work is carried out at the same time as the building, however, depending on funding, the car park may be completed as a separate second phase of the project. When planning board clerk Walter Gunn asked why the land was being demolished and rebuilt, Holmes explained that it was at the end of its useful life and that it made sense to complete the two land projects. construction before stores reopen.

The building will sit on its original footprint; however, interior spaces have been redesigned to provide more space for some of the returning tenants. Four companies will return to the square once rebuilt. Armata Market will once again be the anchor of the mall, with an 11,600 square foot store larger than its former store. Similarly, Longmeadow Salon will have an additional 1,000 square feet of space. Iron Chef and Dream Nails will also be back in the square. There are a few storefronts that haven’t been rented yet, Pun said. Reminder publication.

Choate explained that the building will be designed to modern fire and building codes, including the use of sprinkler and fire alarm systems, grease traps for the sewer line and a sewer separator. debris to preserve water quality. The parking lot will be updated with an additional accessible parking spot and a realigned exit on Maple Road.

Regarding the aesthetic, Holmes said, “We strived to do something cutting edge.”
The part of the building to the right of the bottle store remained largely intact after the fire and is structurally sound, requiring only a cool facade. The 25-foot-tall roofline for the remaining building will be flat except for what Holmes called the “Clock Tower”, a 35-foot tower at the 90-degree corner where the L-shaped building sections meet.

Deputy Town Manager Corrin Meise-Munns told council that the Longmeadow Police and Fire Department had no stated concerns, but wanted to review the parking lot exit change. She noted that a PVC sewer line, but under Massachusetts law, PVC lines are not allowed within 10 feet of a building. Choate said she is working with City Engineer Time Keane to resolve these issues and any additional feedback from the building department.

Planning Board member Chris Legiadre noted that there is a slight spill on adjoining properties according to plans. Gunn asked about smells and noise from tenants, pointing out that restaurants often have such complaints from surrounding neighbors. Board vice-chairman Mark Gold, who attended the hearing, said the most common complaints about companies were about smells, noise and light. He told Holmes that the city had adopted the BUG lighting rating system (backlight, uplight, glare). Holmes said he would raise those concerns with his plumbing and ventilation engineer and consider the rating in selecting the height of the light and fixtures.

“We would probably want to approve each applicant their own review of the sitemap,” Gunn said. Although the building occupies the same footprint as its predecessor, he said, changes to the interior layout and the location of the walls qualified the project as new construction. He also said the commercial property was unable to claim reconstruction as “as of right”, as a burnt down residence would. While Holmes disagreed with this assertion, Meise-Munns said state law was silent on the matter.

Bruce Colton, member of the Planning Board, felt that site design reviews are not about internal structures; however, the location of exhaust fans may require tenants to submit to an examination.
Resident Alex Byrne asked if the flat roof could be used for solar power. Holmes explained that the option had been discussed but that more conversations would be needed with Eversource before a decision could be made.

Another resident, Marianna McKee, requested that the privacy fence separating the property from her neighbors be replaced. Holmes agreed to report the “reasonable” idea to the owners.
Resident Laurie Ferreira said the designs presented by Capital Studio Architects, which contained a variety of materials and textures, resembled “a strip mall” and asked if the architecture could be close to the colonial design of the Longmeadow Shops .

Holmes explained that the building materials and processes are new and “exciting”. He said a conscious effort had been made to change the appearance of the building.

Longmeadow salon owner Jose Rijos said he was “very excited and happy” to be returning to Longmeadow and, more specifically, the place.

Planning Board Chair Cheryl Thibodeau kept public comments on the matter. James Thomas, owner of The Bottle Shop, asked Pun if funding for the project had been secured or if it was “based on signed leases”. He also protested that he had material on the site that he had not been allowed to retrieve. Pun said funding had already been secured and suggested Thomas return the documents if he wanted to rent space in the rebuilt plaza. Additionally, she said, Thomas would be allowed on site to collect his belongings once he was safe. Thibodeau stressed that these questions were between the two parties and did not concern the objective of the public hearing.

Prior to the fire, the property’s dumpster was on adjacent land. Holmes explained that he expected the property to be used in the same way, but there were no plans to improve the land. A resident said the lot was often used as extra parking. Again, Thibodeau said the other lot was not the focus of the hearing.

The hearing continued until a next meeting. Meanwhile, Holmes said he would find definitive answers to the odor, noise and light issues, as well as present the changes to the parking lot to police and firefighters.

John Smith

The author John Smith