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Written by Brian Benson for the MetroWest Daily News, originally published on 4/22/16

NATICK– A developer planning to turn the vacant downtown American Legion building into space for housing and business has begun interior work.

Stonegate Group, on a Facebook page set up to track progress, reported it has taken down interior walls and done other work.

The Zoning Board of Appeals has voted to approve the development, which will preserve the historic portion of the building fronting West Central Street and replace a newer addition in the rear with a multi-story addition.  The ZBA expects to sign the decision for the 13 West Central St. project on Monday, according to its agenda.

The project will create 11 units of housing and space for businesses, including potentially two restaurants, said Jamie Errickson, the town’s director of community and economic development.

“That’s a pretty iconic building in the center,” Errickson said, adding the project is a good example of preserving a historic building while bringing in new uses.

Errickson said the development concept did not change significantly during the ZBA’s review.  The board focused on finer points of the project, which is on a relatively small size.  The trash and recycling area, for example, was moved inside when it had originally been planned for outdoors.

Stonegate plans to provide roughly two dozen parking spaces, including underground spaces, associated with the project, Errickson said.

Demand from restaurant patrons will likely be greatest at night and on weekends, when there is parking available in a nearby town lot, he said.

The building was built around 1880 and has hosted a variety of organizations including a furniture company, Natick District Court and an American Legion post, according to a press release Stonegate issued in February before the ZBA meetings on the project began.

“We are proud to be involved in bringing life back to this prominent Natick landmark,”  Sean McGrath, president of Stonegate said in the release.

Information on the projects and photos of work are available on Facebook at Stonegate West Central.