Mystic - The Groton Zoning Commission approved a change Tuesday that lets the developer of the burned-out Central Hall site on West Main Street swap parking spaces between his commercial and residential tenants.
Historic LLC, the company developing Central Hall at 18-22 W. Main St., also owns property at 36 W. Main St., commonly known as the Tift building.
Changes in the special permit pave the way for Historic LLC to reserve its best parking spaces, including 15 at its 36 W. Main building, for tenants of luxury condominiums it has not yet fully committed to build.
Merchants and employees of four businesses at 36 W. Main St. currently park behind the building. The special permit for the Central Hall development stated that, although some tenants of the new condos would have spaces at 36 W. Main, "the creation of this parking will support the development of the Central Hall Site while not affecting existing parking or use at (the Tift Building) site."
With the recent change, 18 spaces in the Mystic Art Center lot across West Main Street, that were intended to be used for residents of the future condos, will instead be used for merchants and employees at both 36 W. Main and 18-22 W. Main.
"Once they decided that the spaces at 36 West Main would be for the tenants, that affected their use of the parking spaces," Planning Director Mark Murphy said Thursday, and therefore required the developers to return to the zoning board for the approval they received Tuesday.
Reached late Friday afternoon, Ken Navarro, one of the development principals, said "All we did was reorganize the parking plan. Tift is a little closer to Central Hall than the Art Center lot is. It seemed logical."
He said there are no concerns about his commercial tenants whose leases include parking.
"Any existing leases will be fully honored," Navarro said. "By the time Central Hall opens, everyone will be fully compliant. Downtown tenants realize the vacancy at the Central Hall block isn't good for downtown. They want something there to create the critical mass."
He said with that in mind, the importance of convenient parking increases.
"Even this plan is not the most convenient," he said. "But we need to make sure that the street spots are left open, free, and convenient to the public. We want to be sure our residents and tenants are not using those spots. That's important. No one can survive without those convenient parking spaces for the people who visit and shop downtown."
The Central Hall plan calls for about six retail spaces on the ground floor and 12 to 16 luxury condominiums above, Navarro told the town in July.
"We hope to sell the units at top-of-the-market prices," Navarro told the Town Council. "As soon as the site plan is approved, we would start marketing the first floor retail. We feel that is the most predictable demand. Getting retail tenants would trigger construction of the rest of the building. We're less certain of the residential now than we were a few years ago."
Navarro said the site plan has been approved with certain requirements.
"We also received another list of comments this week," he said Friday.
"We hope to satisfy those and deliver completed site plan by the end of the month or early next month. We remain committed to building something we, and the town can be proud of. This is a special landmark."