Offices, apartments proposed for Berlin site
By David Delcore
Staff Writer | April 09,2013
Stefan Hard / Staff Photo
Developers want to tear down this former restaurant in Berlin on the Barre-Montpelier Road and replace it with an office building, plus build a 54-unit apartment complex on the hillside in the background.
BERLIN — Owners of a six-lot subdivision that overlooks the Barre-Montpelier Road and is now home to an Autozone are hoping to redevelop one of the remaining parcels while constructing an apartment complex on another. Assuming the Fecteau family is able to obtain state and local permits, the vacant building that once housed Taco Bell and most recently Simply Subs II will be razed to make room for a 5,040-square-foot office building at the base of Overlook Drive, and a 54-unit apartment building will be constructed in two phases just up the hill.
Berlin’s Development Review Board is considering both applications, which were filed separately by different branches of the same family-owned business.
Fecteau Commercial Inc. has proposed replacing the vacant restaurant with a single-story office building, while Fecteau Residential Inc. is advancing plans for the four-story apartment complex. Both projects were the subject of recent hearings before the local board and will also require state land-use permits.
Traffic is expected to be a key consideration, given the proximity of the private drive that would serve both developments to the intersection of the Barre-Montpelier Road and the Berlin State Highway. The local board is waiting for input from the state Agency of Transportation before deciding whether to schedule additional hearings on either or both of the proposals.
Traffic was an issue in the permit process that paved the way for the construction of Autozone. The state required the elimination of the Barre-Montpelier Road curb cut that had served the building where Simply Subs II was doing business at the time. That drive was replaced with an entrance off Overlook Drive — the private dead-end road that was constructed to serve the hillside subdivision. According to documents filed with the town, the office building would be leased to a single tenant, which is not named but is expected to employ up to 30 people.
The new building would be reoriented on the site, and though local regulations require only 21 parking spaces the plan is to create 40 spaces using land from a neighboring parcel in the subdivision.
According to the application, the additional parking is being created in part to accommodate some future use of a building. The available parking would be enough, materials suggest, for a retail establishment with 19 employees or a 120-seat restaurant.
Although Fecteau Commercial is proposing a surplus of parking for the office building at the base of Overlook Drive, Fecteau Residential is seeking a waiver of the town’s parking requirement for the apartment complex planned up the hill. Based on the number of proposed units, the town’s regulations call for 126 parking spaces, but the application contends that figure is excessive given contemplated lease restrictions that would limit the number of cars tenants could own. The complex would eventually include 38 two-bedroom units, 16 one-bedroom units and two studio apartments. The proposed restriction would essentially limit the number of cars tenants could park on site to the number of bedrooms in their apartment.
The parking plan presented by Fecteau Residential anticipates 102 spaces, including 10 spaces for visitors.
According to the application, the apartment complex would be built in two nearly identical phases. The lone exception is a “common building” that would eventually link two other structures that are essentially mirror images of each other.
The common building would include a ground-floor lobby and administrative offices and provide access to the stairway and elevators, while the upper three floors would house a mix of dining, exercise and recreational space for tenants.
The ground floor of the first of two structures that would contain the mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments — 28 in all — would include room for some indoor parking, as well as storage space. The apartments would be on the top three floors.
The plan contemplates eventually duplicating that structure on the opposite side of the common building.