Town officials have begun informally reviewing a major mixed-use development plan for a parcel of land adjoining the Paragon Boardwalk at the entrance to the town, and already the size of the project has caught the attention of at least one prominent Hull leader.
Economic Development Committee Chairwoman Jennifer Constable, who also chairs the Board of Selectmen, said that, during a recent EDC meeting, town officials discussed the proposal, including their initial concerns. (The development, proposed by Paragon Boardwalk owner Chris Reale under the name of The Dunes at Paragon Boardwalk, is expected to be on the selectmen’s agenda this month.)
“A project of this scale hasn’t come before the town for some time,” Constable said. “A developer [has an opportunity to make] adjustments to [his or her] proposal when it’s feasible to do so,” she noted.
The first step for Reale would be to seek from the Planning Board a special permit for the proposed development, which would be located within the Nantasket Beach Overlay District.
The review process for such a large project can be lengthy and involves community feedback. There will be public hearings, and notices will be mailed to abutters and posted in The Hull Times.
If the necessary town approvals are secured, the development, formerly part of Paragon Park, as now proposed would contain 140 rental units, year-round retail space, related amenities, and parking and other improvements. They could include an outdoor pool and cabana with sunset views over World’s End, a fitness center, a game room, and a rooftop lounge.
The current plan appears to include mostly residential units on the first floor, along with a small cafe. The mixed-use concept normally promotes first-floor retail, with the residential units on the upper floors.
“When the overlay district was adopted about 10 years ago, there were no requirements for affordable housing or green building standards,” Constable said.
Reale’s hope, he told The Hull Times recently, “is that this project would unlock many of the proposed streetscape improvements included in Hull’s Unified Work Plan.”
The UWP, approved by the selectmen last year as a flexible, “living document,” integrates several earlier plans and studies focused on the improvement and revitalization of the Nantasket Beach area and offers a strategy for short- and long-term implementation.
The EDC’s conversation about the mixed-use proposal segued into a discussion about the overall UWP, which is posted on the town website.
Constable requested that EDC members review the plan prior to the next meeting “to set priorities and to see how we can move forward” with particular aspects of it. She said that, while not advocating for the project, she believes that Reale’s mixed-use proposal “could be a catalyst for a lot of that work.”
Reale was not on the EDC call because the update to committee members was informal.
In other business at the meeting
* Hull Garden Club member Susan Short Green, on the line during the remote meeting, was asked by Constable to provide an update on the restoration plan for the sign that welcomes visitors entering Hull. The plan has been delayed due to a lack of funds. (See below sidebar.)
* Constable asked EDC members to review information she provided that evening about a new state “Community One Stop for Growth” program, which involves a single application that potentially connects communities with numerous grant opportunities related to specific projects the town might want to pursue.
“The process is more efficient” and less time-consuming, Constable said. “We need to think through our economic development priorities as a community. The sooner we can submit an expression of interest, the quicker we will get a response.”
* William Smythe, who is involved with the Paragon Boardwalk, brought up a proposal by a member of the community for a potential farmers market on part of the land owned by Reale and also expressed concern about the condition of the Art Walk, which is also on property owned by Reale.
“It needs to be kept up so the developer realizes that it’s an important part of the community,” Smythe said. “Let’s clean it up and make it look good.”
Constable agreed. “We need to establish an agreement for the Art Walk and Art Garden with the developer,” she said. “This is meant to be a vibrant community space, and I would like to keep it that way.”
* EDC member Donna Pursel, who is also a selectman, recently reached out to Town Manager Philip Lemnios about the possibility of the town embarking on a utility box painting project involving local artists – similar to what Chelsea and Plymouth have accomplished. Permission would need to be granted by the utility companies.
Pursel plans to reach out to both those communities to learn more about their projects and said she would report back to the EDC.
Sidebar: Unwelcome funding delay slows refurbishment of ‘Welcome’ sign
Plans to rehabilitate the “Welcome to Hull” sign that greets residents and visitors as they enter town have been delayed due to a lack of funding.
The current sign on George Washington Boulevard was built almost 27 years ago through the efforts of members of the Hull Garden Club, which is spearheading the plan to repair the sign.
“Since it was first installed, the garden club has proudly maintained the sign and the area around it with the help of the town and the Department of Public Works,” member Susan Short Green told The Hull Times. “Unfortunately, the past year has caused the club to cancel or curtail many of its fundraising efforts that we had hoped would provide us with the funds to see this project through.”
Because the sign sits on state Department of Conservation and Recreation property, the garden club applied for a DCR matching grant to help pay for the work but was not accepted into the program.
“Sadly, we were denied because we were told those funds are more for recreational purposes than for signage,” Green said.
The estimated cost to repaint the top portion of the sign and to rebuild the bottom part using weather-resistant materials is about $15,000. The refurbished sign would feature a red “wave,” and the stone base would be maintained. New plantings would be added once the work is complete.
“We are trying to find creative ways to fundraise for the repairs,” said Green, who provided an update at a recent Economic Development Committee meeting.
Green and other garden club members are hopeful that a solution to the funding issue will be found so that the sign can be restored to its original glory.