NATICK — There’s a new development brewing at the former Kells Beer Company site.
Once home to a craft brewery and taproom, 21 Summer St. is now the proposed site for a mixed-use development that’s set to bring new housing units and retail space to downtown Natick.
Still in its early stages, the Stonegate-helmed project made incremental progress last week at a joint meeting of the town’s Historical Commission and Design Review Board.
During the Jan. 13 meeting, Stonegate representatives said plans consist of commercial space on the ground floor, with three studio, seven one-bedroom and nine two-bedroom apartments on the upper floors. The redevelopment will also include garden space and a roof deck for tenants.
The property is located one block from Natick’s downtown center, just across the street from The Center For Arts In Natick (TCAN). In a vote, the Historical Commission agreed the existing brick building, which dates back to 1942, is not historically significant.
“It’s not particularly historic or gratifying to look at,” Historical Commission Chair Stephen Evers said. “It’s a simple brick structure that served well as a brewery — that was probably the best thing it’s ever had — but it is not a formidable structure that has historical significance architecturally, in my opinion. It’s a very plain, industrial building.”
At another point in the meeting, Stonegate representatives spoke about a desire to make the designs contemporary, but cohesive with the architectural style downtown.
Optimism, parking concerns
Developers had previously appeared before the town’s Design Review Board to receive feedback, returning last week with revised designs.
DRB member Steve Gerrard said he was pleased with the overall composition, adding that it was “going in the right direction.”
However, some of the board and commission members present at the meeting expressed concerns about parking, noting that there will be more rental units than parking spaces. Plans include 16 parking spaces in an underground garage, as well as one spot outside the building.
Stonegate President Dean Calivas suggested some future tenants might take advantage of the walkable neighborhood and use the nearby commuter rail. The Natick Center commuter rail stop is less than a 5-minute walk from 21 Summer St.
DRB member Jon Traficonte agreed the location is prime for commuters who rely on public transportation, also praising developers for siting the parking underground, where it won’t cut into potential outdoor space.
Throughout the meeting, DRB members requested additional details on the development’s finer details, including exterior lighting, windows, dryer vents and air conditioning connections. Traficonte suggested developers return to the board at its next meeting in February to provide clarity before the DRB drafts a recommendation on the plans.
However, there was a general tone of optimism regarding the redevelopment project’s direction.
“I’m really excited about seeing this process tonight, because we have so many buildings around Natick that are just not really attractive,” Historical Commission member Henry Haugland said.
That process, he continued, will result in “a building where people drive by and say, ‘That’s cool.’ ”