Recent History of the Property
The 66-acre tract of land was formerly known as the Allen Property. The land was identified in the 2001 Shrewsbury Master Plan as an important site for industrial, office, and research and development uses. In September 2002, Shrewsbury Town Meeting voted to acquire the property. At the time it was under a purchase and sale agreement between the owners and AvalonBay Communities, Inc. Most of the site was taxed as agricultural land under M.G.L. c. 61A, therefore the owners had to notify the Town of their intent to sell. This notification initiated a 120-day right of first refusal period in which the Town could elect to acquire the property on the same terms and conditions and for the same purchase price of $6.1 million offered by the buyer. Fearing the loss of an important parcel of industrial land, Shrewsbury officials pursued a three-part strategy to acquire the land. These steps consisted of (1) exercising the right of first refusal and purchasing the property, (2) creating the Shrewsbury Development Corporation (SDC), and (3) changing the Allen Property's zoning from Limited Industrial and Rural "B" to Office/Research.
SHREWSBURY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
The newly-established SDC arrived at three goals for the project:
Increase and strengthen Shrewsbury's commercial/industrial tax base;
Create new, high-quality jobs; and
Facilitate development that respects the interests of adjacent landowners.
After issuing a Request for Proposals to recruit developers, in 2003 the SDC selected the Worcester Business Development Corporation (WBDC) as the developer. After several months of study and consultation with the SDC and town officials, WBDC provided an analysis of regional market data and a conceptual site plan showing approximately 600,000 sq. ft. of space in several buildings. The analysis concluded that the site would be more attractive for uses such as light manufacturing, warehouse, and distribution due to regional market demand. A flexible mixed-use development plan allowing the site to be marketed for a combination of research and development and light industrial uses was subsequently recommended by the WBDC. This would have required a zoning change as warehouse and distribution facilities are not permitted in the Office/Research district. It also would have compromised the Town's longer-term tax revenue objectives for the property. In August-September 2004, the SDC and Board of Selectmen decided to wait for improved market conditions rather than pursue the multi-use development plan. By the end of the year, WBDC receded from its involvement with the Allen Property while the SDC continued to explore and pursue possibilities.
In 2007, the State government unveiled a new grant program to support communities that demonstrated significant interest in promoting economic development. This program came as a way to make M.G.L. c. 43D (Chapter 43 D), the expedited permitting law, more enticing to cities and towns. In may 2007, Shrewsbury Town Meeting voted to designate the Allen Property as a Chapter 43D Priority Development Site (PDS), positioning Shrewsbury to be one of the first communities in the Commonwealth to compete for a Chapter 43D grant. The Interagency Permitting Board subsequently approved Shrewsbury's request for $150,000. These funds were applied to services including physical and environmental site studies, a traffic impact analysis, and a conceptual site development plan prepared by BETA Group, Inc. Additionally a Master Plan Report of the site was prepared for the Town and SDC by Community Opportunities Group, Inc. and approved by the Board of Selectmen in early 2009, highlighting trends in the regional market, local economic characteristics, fiscal conditions, and future recommendations for the site.
PLANNING FOR CENTECH PARK NORTH
In 2010, the SDC retained Cushman & Wakefield as a broker for five years, followed by Colliers International Group, Inc. who continues to work closely with Shrewsbury on marketing the site. In 2012 a sewer extension project on the property was completed, making all utilities available at the site. The 495/MetroWest Development Compact Plan was completed in 2012, resulting in a designation of the property as an official Priority Development Area (PDA). In 2013, the Economic Development Self-Assessment Tool (EDSAT) was completed for Shrewsbury in order to help it analyze its capacity for economic development by identifying "deal makers" and "deal breakers" in town. A Master Plan update for Shrewsbury was completed in 2016 which reassessed overall priorities for the town and its properties such as Centech Park North.
In 2015, the SDC revisited statewide exposure the availability of grants. The site continues to qualify as a Priority Development site due to streamlined permitting. The site also qualifies as MassEcon Bio-Ready with Gold status based upon existing zoning and the rating was improved with access to sewer. The Town submitted an application for MassWorks Grant for North Roadway in 2015 but was declined due to the lack of design plans and a private partner. However, the Town was successful in acquiring Site Readiness Grant funding for the design of North Roadway in 2016.
In 2018, the Town of Shrewsbury was awarded $10,000 in District Local Technical Assistance funding through the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC) to update the marketing analysis and conceptual development plan for the property. This is a collaborative effort between CMRPC, the Town of Shrewsbury, the SDC, Colliers International Group, Inc., and other stakeholders to move forward with development of this highly valuable property. Additionally, the Town submitted a grant application for a second round of Site Readiness Grant funding and received $302,000 for design and permitting of North Roadway. The Town continues to work with MassDevelopment and Bohler Engineering on the design of North Roadway. The Town filed for MEPA review in November 2018. Currently the SDC and Town are preparing to submit an application for a MassWorks grant in 2019.