A rendition of the proposed NOVO Riverside Commons development. Courtesy image

Changes to NOVO architecture soothe Zoning Board skeptics

April 2, 2024

By Betsy Levinson — Betsy@theconcordbridge.org  

The Zoning Board of Appeals praised the new designs for 292 and 294 Baker Avenue as developers unveiled significant changes to the 40B apartment building project.  

The ZBA will decide at a future meeting whether to grant a comprehensive permit for NOVO Riverside Commons. However, its 40B status limits the town’s influence primarily to architecture and exterior color.  

Board members and residents complained about the two buildings’ five-story bulk and density at previous hearings. Other complaints cited the long center hallway running the length of the two buildings, among other problems.  

But at a recent hearing, site developer Kevin Hurley of Taurus Investment Holdings showed updated plans that remove 14 apartments from the top level of 292 Baker Avenue and add them as a sixth story to the 294 building, which is further from the road.  

Further, Hurley showed the now four-story 292 address bisected by an open passageway with a three-season terrace to break up the building.   

He said the approximately $500,000 in changes would be “absorbed” by Taurus.   

NOVO, as the development is known, consists of 201 apartments with one, two and three bedrooms. Parking will be underground and street-level, with substantial bike parking.  

It falls under Chapter 40B, the state statute that lets local zoning officials approve housing under “flexible rules” if units are set aside for low- or moderate-income tenants. 

Cliff Boehmer, a consultant hired by the town with funds provided by Taurus, noted the “significant design challenges” involved in siting a residential complex in a commercial area.  

“I’m very supportive” of the new plan, Boehmer said, citing the breakup of the buildings’ scale. “It’s moving in a good direction.”  

The proposed NOVO Riverside Commons development on Baker Avenue in West Concord.
Courtesy image

Boehmer also praised Taurus for being “receptive to criticism” and the project’s sustainability.  

“These are great improvements,” said board member Elizabeth Akehurst-Moore.   

ZBA Chairman Theo Kindermans cited the natural light in the hallways, among other aspects.  

“A massive improvement,” said Kindermans. 

The expected increase in traffic is another source of fierce pushback against the project. Hurley said Taurus will add $100,000 to the cost of the redesign of the Baker Avenue-Main Street intersection.  

Kindermans said traffic would be the subject of another hearing before issuing the certificate.  

He also thanked Taurus for the $100,000 contribution to the intersection improvement: “It’s meaningful and very much appreciated,” he said.   

Town Planning Director Elizabeth Hughes said relocating the utilities at the intersection “is complicated,” but the town is coordinating with Verizon and Comcast.   

“It has to happen,” said Hughes.  

Hurley said construction vehicles will mainly access the property from Route 2 to Baker Avenue Extension.