GROTON -- Although progress at the new Boynton Meadows subdivision located off Main Street has been delayed, pushing off the original date when the first tenants were supposed to move in, developer Robert France remains upbeat about the project.
"Our schedule has been significantly delayed due to more work being needed in the existing building," said France of the situation. "But we're plugging along. We need to do a lot of reevaluation to make sure that what we're proposing works with the town's structural code. We need to see how it effects the layout of our space needs and to adjust for that."
At issue is the project's phase one, an existing building that fronts the 134 Main St. property whose rehabilitation into a mix of commercial and residential units was to have been a showpiece at the entrance to Boynton Meadows.
There, France said unforeseen structural problems inside the historic home needed to be addressed, postponing occupation by tenants that was supposed to begin in the fall of this year.
"We are behind schedule due to these unexpected hitches," admitted France. "Those have been primarily newly discovered nuances in the existing building. The structure was in worse shape than expected."
In the meantime, anyone passing by the property along Main Street can see that progress continues to be made on a new addition being built at the rear of the existing building while the main entranceway to the subdivision has been roughed out.
"The access to the driveway is done, but the driveway itself is not complete because the final paving won't be down until the end of the project."
On other fronts, forward movement is less perceptible but nevertheless real.
"The underground utilities have been roughed in but the final wiring hasn't been installed yet," said France. "The base coat for the roadway is completed. Curbing is installed and concrete sidewalks poured for phase one. The foundation for the addition on the front building is complete and the rough framing for the addition is about 80 percent. We started to frame the existing building and underpinning the foundation. So we're projecting completion of phase one, which includes the existing building and the parking area, by early March."
Already, said France, tenants are lined up to move in to the commercial space as soon as it is ready, including Bliss Bakery, Buddha Next Yoga, and a dentist's office.
In addition, more commercial space is to be created for another tenant. For that, France plans to meet with the Planning Board for necessary permitting.
As for the residential units, the developer said despite a sluggish economy, interest in them has been running high
"We've had a significant number of folks inquiring about the units," France said. "I don't think that in our particular market the economy is going to have any impact. Our product is about a lifestyle and not necessarily about cost. For buyers, it's about the leisure of being in a location close to the center of town and that is being maintained by facilities services such as a property manager."
But before the developer gets serious about marketing the residential units, France said he would prefer to have at least one of the planned homes constructed to give buyers a good idea of what they will be getting for their money.
"Our hope is to get a model unit up for early next spring," said France. "We want to be able to take advantage of the amount of activity we've had because there have been a lot of inquiries about the residential units. Without an actual model to walk through, it's hard for people to imagine exactly what they're getting. Seeing pictures is not the same as being able to touch and feel our product."
According to plans approved by the town's land-use boards, Boynton Meadows is to include three affordable-housing units among 18 planned, a feature that first drew the attention of the Board of Selectmen and the interest of the Affordable Housing Trust, which arranged to loan France $412,000 in return for the creation of the affordables.
France said the first affordable unit will be ready in phase one of the project, along with two other market-rate units and the commercial space.
Plans for the homes themselves will follow the classic lines of many older homes in town, with articulation designed to make the various duplexes and triplexes look less like town houses and more like single-family dwellings.
And therein may lie the rub. Because the project lies within the town's historic district, town officials such as those on the Historic Districts Commission, are sensitive to any changes that might impact the neighborhood.
"The Planning Board has signed off on our designs but the HDC gets into more detail than the the Planning Board," explained France. "They take a hard look at all the materials we're using and paint colors -- things like that. As a formality, we need to go back to them, and if there are any changes in the specifications -- for example we decided to use another light fixture than was previously approved, one that is equal to those that had been approved but done by a different manufacturer -- we need to notify the commission."
France said with the delays, he is looking at early March of 2013 before both the commercial and residential units in phase one are ready for occupancy.
"We're looking at building a duplex at the entrance of the cul de sac," said France of what comes next. "But of course, our most important goal is to complete phase one as soon as possible. That's where our focus is right now."