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July 18, 2019

Shrewsbury looking to advance development of Centech North site

Photo | Grant Welker Shrewsbury officials have created a plan for 60 acres off Route 20 and South Street to be developed into up to 450,000 square feet of technology offices.

Shrewsbury officials have created a master plan for a life science and biopharmaceutical office park that could hold up to 450,000 square feet of space and now they're looking for the public's input on the ideas.

Centech Park North, a roughly 60-acre site off Route 20 and South Street, has sat empty for years while the town has considered what could become of it. The town bought the former farmland in 2003 for $6 million with a goal of avoiding what a master plan for the site calls "a typical vinyl box apartment complex."

The site, still sometimes called the Allen property for its former owners, was rezoned to office and research use. Town officials also established an economic development corporation, the Shrewsbury Development Corporation, to help handle the eventual development of the site. In other steps over the years, the town has designated the site for expedited permitting, paid for a conceptual site development plan and environmental studies, and extended a sewer line to the site.

A master plan was first published in 2009 and was updated in 2018 when officials found a stronger regional office market. It was created by the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission.

No plans have moved forward since, but now the Shrewsbury Development Corporation is looking to take advantage of the property's location on Route 20 and a portion of South Street next to Charles River Laboratories and offices for UMass.

The Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen are holding a public hearing on July 23 at 7:05 p.m. in Town Hall to discuss details of the master plan for the site.

The Planning Board approved a subdivision plan this month that creates a foundation of sorts for what the town envisions as a 10-building site totaling 450,000 square feet. (The two-story Charles River Laboratories building, by comparison, is listed at about 412,000 square feet, and the two-story UMass building 457,000 square feet.)

One road from Route 20 would support five buildings at the southern half of the site and another road from South Street five more buildings on the northern half.

In another small step in moving the project forward, the town has been awarded a grant from the state agency MassDevelopment to help pay for the design and engineering of the road into the site from South Street.

Shrewsbury is making a pitch to developers for the site, touting the town's relatively low tax rate and location near life science companies that, in addition to Charles River Laboratories, include AbbVie in Worcester, Sanofi Genzyme in Westborough and Framingham, Sunovion in Marlborough, and Bristol Myers-Squibb in Devens.

Development of the Centech site would be the second major project to add to Shrewsbury's stretch of Route 20 in the coming years.

About 2.5 miles to the west, the former Edgemere Drive-In site, which has been vacant for nearly two decades, is proposed for a Market Basket-anchored retail development totaling 145,000 square feet, along with 250 apartments.

Officials in Shrewsbury and Grafton are also advocating for the development of Centech Park, which straddles the two towns' border and sits a mile and a half from the Centech North site. That site covers 121 acres within walking distance of the Grafton commuter rail station and has a capacity for 675,000 square feet of development. Its tenants include a data storage site for State Street Corp.

Other steps to spur office growth in the area includes the construction roughly 15 years ago of Centech Boulevard, which connected the Grafton station and the Centech Park to Route 20.

A 35-acre undeveloped site on that stretch sold in June for just under $1.6 million. That property, with an address of 14 Fortune Blvd., was sold by Centech Development of Southborough, which is registered to Robert Moss, to a limited liability corporation registered to Christopher Milton of Milford.

A third major site stands just on the other side of Route 20 from that property, the 80-acre Grafton Science Park, owned by a subsidiary of Tufts University and adjacent to the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. The site has a capacity for 440,000 square feet of life science office space in a cluster of planned buildings to join the Tufts New England Regional Biosafety Laboratory, a research facility.

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