The Journey to Renew Upton Center

A project of this scale is complicated and requires the coordination of many individuals and organizations. While a project of this magnitude may take place over several years, there are times when we will need to move quickly to ensure that we don't lose access to certain properties that make up our downtown area. One example of this was when the town acquired the Holy Angels church property. Now, we have a short window of opportunity to work with a private, downtown property owner, who is amenable to working with the town in support of this effort.

 

The entire project was launched in the first half of 2018 by Upton's Board of Selectmen (BoS) and began with the creation of an Economic Development Committee (EDC) appointed by the Selectmen.

 

Over the period of 9 months, the EDC met and reviewed the project with:
• Police Department
• Upton Men’s Club
• BoS and Code Enforcement
• Council On Aging (COA) and Disability Commission
• Community Preservation Committee (CPC)

• Board of Library Trustees
• Conservation Commission
• Historical Commission/Historical Society
• Municipal Community Center Feasibility Committee
• Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA)
• Capital Budget Committee

 

Activities that have taken place to date

May 2018: Economic Development Committee appointed by Board of Selectmen to:

• Develop shared vision for Upton Center re-vitalization
• Create tools to implement vision
• Create an Economic Development Plan

• Engage consultants experienced in New England town revitalization

23 Jan 2019: Public Forum held by Economic Development Committee and consultancy:

• Present the vision of a vibrant downtown and the unique opportunities for realization
• Gain widespread input on how the residents envision an attractive future downtown
• Create a working group to dive into the details and produce a consensus plan

Feb-Apr 2019: Working Group of about 40 residents of diverse backgrounds meets to:

• Study in detail the current downtown and the opportunities for creating a new center
• Develop a list of goals to inform the next stages of the plan
• Inform their friends and neighbors about the goals and opportunities

23 Mar 2019: Upton Center Visioning Workshop invited residents to:

• Hear the ideas presented by the working group
• Share ideas, discuss preferences, and learn about the opportunities and goals
• Get an update on alternatives for a new Community Center and Library

2 May 2019: Town Meeting where all were invited to:

• Hear the plans and ideas, and the process for moving forward
• Express their ideas and concerns

• The town voted favorably to support the vision and to authorize the Selectmen and the EDC to move ahead with the planning process. The vote also enabled the Board of Selectmen to act on town-owned properties, which will allow developers to move ahead with proposals with confidence.

2 May 2019: Final Report was delivered by the consultants. You can see it at the town's website here (146 pages).

Next Steps

1) A committee was formed to craft a Request For Proposal (RFP)

The Economic Development Committee will begin the process to create an RFP for the project.

Now that the town meeting has approved the warrants, a committee has been formed to work with a consultant to craft the RFPs that will reflect the shared vision and be used to solicit interested developers. This authority would be contingent upon the selection of an acceptable developer who is willing to work with the town to implement the shared vision.

 

2) Create a Request for Proposal reflecting the approved vision

The Economic Development Committee will coordinate with town boards to prepare an RFP for the first phase.

The RFP process is how the town communicates to potential developers. The RFP will define the criteria for building(s) as proposed within the vision statement. The RFP will be posted on the General Register and also sent to developers who have demonstrated an ability to implement such a project. Each will submit a proposal back to the town, detailing their proposed plans, associated costs or revenues to the town of Upton. The town reserves the right to accept any or reject all and do nothing.

An RFP review committee will be formed to review, contrast, compare and present proposals including a recommendation to the Selectmen to act on.  Although the exact membership has not yet been set, the RFP review team will be made up of EDC members, the town manager, representatives from, finance committee, building commissioner, fire, police, citizens, and others to be determined.

3) EDC creates Upton Center Overlay Zone and Table of Allowed Uses

To move forward, rezoning of the downtown area for mixed-use may be necessary.

Current zoning in the Upton Center area does not support the type of mixed-use properties outlined in the vision statement. The EDC has already begun working with the Planning Board to determine how to best implement changes required to allow this form of the proposed development.

This work is proposed to take place over the summer months in preparation for the fall town meeting. The re-zoning will give property owners additional options. Proposed zoning will require a public hearing and require a two-thirds vote at the Fall town meeting.

4) Beginning Phase 1

Town issues permits, coordinates inspections for the First Phase of Development

Once a developer has been selected, there are many permits and inspections that will be required to get the project started. During this phase, the developer will formalize permits based on agreed upon plans. This includes the four parcels of land (two town-owned and two privately owned).

5) Apply for MassWorks grant for pedestrian, road safety improvements

Along with getting the developer started, we need to begin road work

Safety, speeds and traffic control were major concerns to the working group. This aspect of the projects will be addressed in conjunction with the state. This critical part of the project will occur in parallel with the development. Route 140 needs work and the town will be working alongside MassDOT to implement changes.