Tech center rededicated
NORTHBORO - Saint-Gobain recently rededicated its Higgins Technology Grinding Center after moving it from the company's Greendale campus in Worcester to its Research & Technology Center in Northboro. The center, named for one of Norton Co.'s founding fathers, Milton P. Higgins, is a "one-of-a-kind facility committed to grinding process innovation through collaborative alliances and provides researchers with a unique opportunity to test and evaluate new products while also serving as a place to use technology to solve problems for end-user customers," according to a company press release.
Company spokeswoman Lauren Petit said Saint-Gobain invested $18 million in the expansion of its Research & Technology Center in Northboro in 2006, as well as an additional $6 million to renovate existing buildings in Northboro.
"This enabled Saint-Gobain to consolidate its superabrasives, thin wheel and bonded abrasives research & development teams, as well as the Higgins Grinding Technology Center, to Northboro," Ms. Petit wrote in an email.
"The move was completed in 2012, and affords Saint-Gobain the opportunity to centralize all research and development while also maximizing equipment and synergies, and increasing collaboration and productivity," she wrote.
Sixty-two Saint-Gobain employees, along with their equipment, moved from the Greendale space to the new facility in Northboro.
The space left behind in Greendale is currently empty, she said. The company is reviewing its options for the space, but has no plans to refurbish it.
WBDC seeks building credits
WORCESTER - The new owner of the former Telegram & Gazette building at 18-20 Franklin St. has let the Historical Commission know that it may be interested in pursuing federal historic tax credits for its redevelopment.
Julie Holstrom, project manager for the Worcester Business Development Corp., told the commission that the WBDC is in the process of putting together plans for redevelopment of the property.
She said while the building isn't necessarily a historic one - it is not listed anywhere as having any kind of historical significance - she said it is an old building and, as a result, the WBDC is interested in pursuing federal historic tax credits.
She said the original building dates back to 1890 and since then underwent nine renovations or additions.
She said the old T&G building is in effect an amalgamation of five different buildings. She said the WBDC would like to turn the five buildings into three, with each building separated by a fire wall and having its own access. She said that would make the buildings more serviceable.
"Trying to normalize the floor plans has become an issue in putting this project together," said Ms. Holmstrom, who added that her going before the Historical Commission was strictly for informational purposes.
Hearing needed for modification
WORCESTER - The Zoning Board of Appeals has determined that plans to modify an existing comprehensive permit for Illyrian Gardens represent a substantial change and will require a public hearing before the board.
In 1988, the zoning board granted a comprehensive permit for construction of a 72-unit, low-rise building at 545 Salisbury St. The housing development is known as Illyrian Gardens.
Illyrian Gardens Inc. wants to modify the comprehensive permit and reconfigure the property boundaries to allow for the transfer of excess land to create two new parcels.
The newly created parcels would be combined with land abutting nearby Flower Hill Drive for a future development proposal of three single-family homes on one parcel and six additional senior housing rental units on the other.
The reconfiguration of the property would reduce the current lot size of Illyrian Gardens from 3.6 acres to 2.8 acres.
"We are looking to reduce the size of the (existing) parcel so additional land can be put to productive use," Donald O'Neil, a lawyer representing Illyrian Gardens, told the zoning board last week. "It will not effect any activity taking place at Illyrian Gardens."
But Joel Fontane, director of planning and regulatory services, said the proposal represents a 28 percent reduction in the total area of the existing lot for Illyrian Gardens.
He said it is considered a substantial change to a comprehensive permit when the area of a property is reduced by 10 percent or more.
"I think it warrants another look and a hearing," he said.
Retail conversion plan approved
WORCESTER - Plans to convert the former Central Plumbing Supply Co. building at 10-14 East Worcester St. into retail sales and personal services uses has received a green light from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Last week, the board granted Condron Worcester Realty LLC, owner of the property, three special permits so it can proceed with its plans.
Todd Rodman, a lawyer representing Condron Worcester Realty, said the three-story brick building has historically been used for commercial purposes.
He said it was the longtime home of Central Plumbing Supply, and the upper floors were also used for offices and storage.
Mr. Rodman said the owner has relocated the plumbing supply business and is in the process of renovating the building's interior so it can accommodate retail and a personal service shop (hair salon), as well as office uses.
Because the building is in a manufacturing-general zone, a special permit is needed to allow retail and personal services uses. Office use is already allowed in a manufacturing zone.
In addition, the owner sought a waiver for 15 required off-street parking spaces. Under the city's zoning ordinance, at least 156 off-street parking spaces would be needed under the proposed combination of uses for the building, but the developer can only provide 141 spaces.
ZBA approves housing units
WORCESTER - The Worcester East Side Community Development Corp. has received permission to build eight market-rate housing units on vacant lots at 47 Westminster St., 12 Forbes St. and 17 Perkins St.
Todd Rodman, a lawyer representing the group, said two duplexes will be built on four lots.
To do that, however, the group petitioned the Zoning Board of Appeals for two variances - one to provide relief of 1,228 square feet from the 6,000-square-foot gross dimensional area requirement for one lot, and another to provide relief of 1,265 feet from the 6,000-square-foot gross dimensional area requirement for another.
The Worcester East Side CDC owns all the properties, which are in a residential-general area and used to have housing on them.
By right, the group would be able to construct seven housing units under the city's zoning ordinance; the variances will allow for an eighth unit.
Mr. Rodman said the new housing will be rental units. Because they will not be built with any federal or state subsidies, he said, it will be a "true market-rate" project.
Fallon announces grant winners
WORCESTER - Fallon Community Health Plan has announced the winners of its 2012 Community Benefits Grants.
Fallon awarded more than $100,000 in grants to support innovative, community-based programs aimed at improving access to good nutrition and promoting physical activity, providing health and social services for seniors and preventing health and social services for children during the first five years of life.
Grants have been awarded to the following organizations:
Square One: A grant of $20,000 to support The Launch Program for preschool-age children providing physical exercise and overall wellness lessons at homeless shelters, community agencies and schools in greater Springfield and Holyoke.
Community Harvest Project: A grant of $10,000 for the Volunteer Farming Program, which will engage community volunteers in farming in order to grow and donate produce to the 83,000 residents of Worcester County utilizing hunger relief services.
Regional Environment Council Inc.: A grant of $15,000 to support the Urban Garden Resources of Worcester program so that Worcester's low-income, high-risk neighborhoods can access and consume healthy produce by growing it themselves.