MassDevelopment plans again for rezoning historic Vicksburg Square


SHIRLEY — Residential development prospects at historic Vickburg Square at Devens are surfacing again.

Selectmen on Monday welcomed Jessica Strunkin, the new senior vice president for Devens Operations, and Ed Starzec, director of land planning and development.

The two MassDevelopment officials came to talk about rezoning historic Vicksburg Square.

At issue is a phalanx of handsome but long-vacant and deteriorating brick buildings facing Rogers Field that await restoration and reuse. If, that is, stakeholder towns Ayer, Harvard and Shirley and the Devens community, all of which have public hearings pending, agree to rezone the area to allow residential use.

Previous plans failed to make the cut, but Starzec said Devens planners hope the “revised, refined” version will pass muster in all three towns.

MassDevelopment, the state agency in charge of the former military base, hopes the matter can be taken up soon at a Super Town Meeting in all the towns, as required for zoning changes by the Devens Reuse Plan and enabling state legislation, Chapter 498. “We’re looking for… June 10, Starzec said.

The visit was short. After hearing a brief description of the latest redevelopment scheme and asking a couple of questions, the board agreed to set a tentative date for a public hearing: April 29. It will include a 20-minute presentation, said Starzec, who has been this route more than once before. It’s the first time around for Strunkin, however, who has been on the job for two months.

“This is a different plan than 10 years ago, Starzec said… We’re restarting the process.”

The last try came in 2013, when a Boston-based firm, Trinity Financial, had a fully-fleshed-out plan on the drawing board and headed up an impressive road show to tout it. But the plan had to pass in all three towns and it fell short.

There’s no developer on board yet for the new and improved Vicksburg Square redevelopment plan, which calls for 250 residential units, with a 25 percent affordable housing component.

A work in progress for some time, it has evolved, with stakeholder input, Starzec said.

“This time, we want to lock in the zoning change” first, he said.