"It Looks Like A Prison" - HDC Rips Proposed Mixed Use Building In Richmond Development

JohnCarl McGrady •

IMG 5441
Sketch drawing of the proposed mixed use building on Nancy Ann Lane.

The Historic District Commission (HDC) ordered revisions last week to the design of a proposed mixed-use building slated for Nancy Anne Lane in the Richmond Great Point subdivision off Old South Road Lane, citing concerns with the building’s size and massing.

“I understand that's a mixed-use area and there are metal buildings but this is larger than anything remotely out there,” Commissioner Val Oliver said. “It looks like a prison.”

The 15,000-square-foot building would include shop space on the ground floor and 12 housing units on the second floor, as well as both underground and ground-level parking.

“I appreciate that there's housing in it but there's nothing about it that says humans are living here,” Oliver said. “I haven't seen anything even close to this on Nantucket.”

The proposed building would span two lots just off Old South Road and be covered with metal siding. While it wouldn’t be the only building with metal siding in the area, commissioners noted that its size and unbroken mass distinguish it from comparable structures. It also drew unfavorable comparisons to the so-called “New Downtown” development on Sparks Avenue at the HDC’s meeting, with chair Stephen Welch calling for a “thoughtful redesign.”

“It violates pretty much every guideline in the book,” Vice Chair Ray Pohl said.

The development is planned for two parcels at 13 and 15 Nancy Ann Lane, both of which were acquired by the Boston-based Core Investments Inc., in 2023 for just over $5 million.

The “New Downtown” development may offer a glimpse into the future of the Nancy Anne Lane project. Also heavily criticized by the HDC when it was first proposed, it has gone through multiple rounds of revisions over the last year and is now awaiting its final approval from the HDC. While some commissioners remain skeptical of the project, it seems poised for approval sometime soon. Large mixed-use buildings like the one proposed for Nancy Anne Lane are rarely if ever approved the first time they go before the commission. Developers hope to get as much as they can from their property and often propose ambitious projects at first, scaling back as necessary to comply with HDC criticisms.

The Planning Board will review the project at its meeting on Monday.

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