Friary Development: An Economic Boon or a Thing of the Past?

October 4, 2013
by Kristen Hoffman

A proposed 600,000 square foot building at the former friary lot in south Hudson has not yet gotten off of the drawing board.

During the August 14 planning board meeting, Mike Demperio of Fischer and Associates presented a proposal from an unnamed buyer at a preliminary conceptual view hearing.  Jim Petropoulos of the Nashua engineering firm Hayner and Swanson joined Demperio.

In their preliminary proposal, they mentioned the land in Hudson would suit their needs, and only minor variances would need to change to make the construction a reality.  It was estimated that the distribution center would employ about 200 people, and would be a 24 hour operation.  The two were met with generally favorable feedback at the initial meeting, and it was assumed that they would go forward to reach their goal for a January groundbreaking.  In August, the Board of Selectmen reached out to land use boards asking for cooperation in scheduling.

But as of October 1, the planning board has not heard any follow up from either party, leaving the possibility of such a project in limbo.  “There have been no formal submissions at this time,” John Cashell, Hudson’s Town Planner said.  The plan proved to be popular due to the meticulous planning prior to the proposal.  According to Cashall, Petropoulos estimated that the property would draw at least 50 to 75 trucks per day through the park; these trucks would travel exclusively on Sagamore Industrial Park Roads and would not be allowed to travel on Lowell Road with the exception of a couple hundred feet prior to the Sagamore Bridge.  In the August meeting, Petropoulos said about 90 percent of all truck traffic would go straight to the Everett Turnpike.

The building, designated as a distribution center would have been situated on the back 70 acres of the nearly 90 acre lot in the north end of the industrial park.  Petropoulos stated that most of the zoning issues would occur in the western corner of the building, where the property would come within 200 feet of a residential neighborhood, which is against the town’s voting laws.  The loading bays would be situated on the south end of the structure, away from residential properties, which would allow for a proper sound buffer. Other projects included extending Friars Drive an additional 700 feet to allow for proper access to the proposed facility, and building a parking lot to fit 280 vehicles.

The huge swath of land has sat undeveloped since the late 1970s when the Friary closed. In the subsequent years,  the land has been the center of several failed development plans.  At one point, the town considered buying the property but it was voted down by a small margin.

Cashell saw the development as a boon for Hudson’s economy, saying that such a company would attract other, high-end industrial companies to the area, revitalizing the southern industrial corridor in Hudson, “I’m absolutely certain the amount of spin off will mean a higher economic future.”

The future of the project may be in jeopardy, as Demperio stated that the January groundbreaking was essential to the planning of the project.  Demperio also stated that the client was interested in purchasing another parcel of land earlier this year in another part of the state, but that plan fell through.

Cashall said there was no way of knowing whether or not the party is still interested with going forward on plans, but the current track does not look promising for an early winter groundbreaking.  Petropoulos was unable to return calls prior to the publication of this article.