SAUGUS — The Planning Board is considering a proposal by Trunk Space Storage to convert the Colonial Traveler Inn on Route 1, which is currently being used by the state as a homeless shelter, into a four-story self-storage facility.
The motel has 24 rooms, half of which are occupied by at-will tenants, with the other half available to the state as subject to shelter lease, according to Attorney Gerry D’Ambrosio, who is representing the developer of the site. The 1753 Broadway property is part of the B2 High Rise District, and records show the town seized the property in November for unpaid taxes.
D’Ambrosio explained that the self-storage facility would occupy 121,000 square feet and comprise 1,000 mini-storage units, each 10 to 12 square feet. He said the facility would be designed to support the residential area immediately surrounding it, citing the recent boom in development along Route 1 that has seen a number of apartments come into town. He also emphasized the experience of the developers, saying they have developed 30 structures in Greater Boston similar to those they want to construct in Saugus. Jumbo Capital, the financial arm of Trunk Space, owns three self-storage facilities — CubeSmart locations in Everett and Quincy, as well as an Extra Space Storage facility in Norwood.
BL Companies Principal Andy Graves, the project’s architect, told the board at their Feb. 2 meeting that the project would have no demands on the town’s infrastructure and would have a minimal impact on traffic considering the infrequency with which people come and go. He also stressed that the goal was to beautify the site and have the building blend in with those surrounding it.
“The goal is to make it look smaller than it actually is,” Graves said, noting that the facility would be tucked into the hillside to reduce its visible footprint.
Project Manager Suzanne King added that the proposed design is “pretty straightforward,” and that by redeveloping a 24-unit motel into a self-storage facility with a 1,400 square foot office, the demand on the town’s utilities would be reduced.
However, members of the Planning Board and Director of Planning and Economic Development Christopher Reilly expressed concern about the sheer size of the project and an apparent lack of maneuverability for emergency vehicles under the plans submitted to the board.
“Everything’s maximized out,” Reilly said. “I’m not sure why the structure needs to be that large.”
Reilly said he believes that the building’s footprint needs to be reduced, and expressed skepticism that the image presented to the board of what the proposed facility would look like could actually come to fruition. He added that the fire department typically seeks access “all the way around” a property, which current plans would not allow.
Graves countered that he thought the texture and scale of the proposed project seem appropriate for the area, citing the size of the LA Fitness building on the other side of the highway and the parking lot adjacent to it.
Neither Planning Board Chair John O’Brien nor Vice Chair Jeannie Meredith expressed firm concerns during the board’s Feb. 2 meeting, opting to continue the public hearing to the board’s Feb. 16 meeting. During that meeting, O’Brien said the developers were not ready to come back before the board with updated information.
D’Ambrosio said board members conducted a site visit on Feb. 11, which he said “went very well.” Concerns regarding the potential impact of the development on the hillside were addressed, and the proposal does not conflict with the town’s bylaw governing the hillside.
The proposal would come before the board again in March, he said.