The Kraft Group, at the request of Foxborough’s Board of Selectmen, attended Tuesday’s meeting to explain some of the development ideas it hopes to negotiate with the town for Patriot Place and Route 1.
The Kraft Group said in the five years that Patriot Place has been open it has identified what type of business works well in that area – restaurants and entertainment.
“We are on the map nationally as a destination for those kinds of uses,” said Ted Fire, director of construction administration for The Kraft Group. “We are being sought by restaurant and entertainment tenants to locate at Patriot Place and we want to build on that strength.”
Building on that strength will be The Kraft Group’s focus of negotiations with the town after selectmen unanimously approved a three-member negotiating committee Tuesday. Those representing the town at the negotiating table will be Board of Selectmen vice-chair Mark Sullivan, Town Manager Kevin Paicos and Town Counsel Richard Gelerman.
The role of the committee will be to represent the town’s interests at the table and report back to the boards involved – selectmen, planning and water and sewer.
“The boards will say either ‘you’re out of your mind, don’t do it,’ or ‘yes, that’s a good idea, try and get that,’” Gelerman said. … “The town’s negotiating committee has no authority to enter into an agreement with the Kraft Group. We just have authority to discuss and negotiate.”
As for some of the development possibilities for Patriot Place and Route 1, the Kraft Group gave selectmen a similar presentation to the one seen at the public advisory committee meeting in August.
Here’s a closer look at The Kraft Group’s presentation to selectmen, which explains several of its development concepts.
Adding a Second Hotel at Patriot Place
“Our hotel, Renaissance Hotel & Spa, has done very well at Patriot Place,” Fire said. “We’ve had an expressed interest to add a second hotel on the property.”
Fire told selectmen there’s serious interest right now for one additional hotel at Patriot Place and a potential tenant was on site Tuesday looking at location options.
Fire added that while the Kraft Group is not looking at more than one additional hotel at the moment, the door is always open for more development.
“We are not pushing for a third [hotel] at this point but we wouldn’t want to rule it out,” Fire said. “The first one has been successful and an operator has come forward and we would like to move forward and work with them.”
Adding ‘High Quality’ Restaurants
Fire said discussions with some potential tenants are further along than others but offered two types of restaurants that are interested in locating at Patriot Place.
“Japanese Hibachi Steakhouse,” Fire said. “There’s a tenant [interested] who I don’t want to name because we like to work with our tenants on public announcements … [and] a high-end Mexican restaurant.”
Fire said the Kraft Group is not interested in “dumping” any restaurant into Patriot Place.
“We want to be very selective and sensitive to our existing tenants,” Fire said. “We are not looking to saturate or over-cannibalize their business. We want to do things that are additive to the equation and trying to add restaurant options that are varied and add to the overall level of high quality.”
Adding Bowling/Entertainment Complex
Fire said the Kraft Group has been talking for “some time” about a bowling and entertainment complex at Patriot Place – similar to Kings at Legacy Place in Dedham.
“There’s an operator who has expressed serious interest and if we can make it feasible for them I think we can land a deal and get them at Patriot Place,” Fire said.
Acquiring Eight Additional Liquor Licenses from the State
Dan Murphy, vice president of the Kraft Group, told selectmen the company was interested in six additional all alcohol liquor licenses for restaurants and two package store licenses.
Selectmen understood the restaurant licenses but expressed concern with the two package store licenses.
“If your plan is restaurant oriented then why are you interested in two package store licenses?” selectman Virginia Coppola asked.
Fire answered: “Over the years we have had expressed interest from what I will call big box retailers that do sell alcohol. It would be inappropriate for me to name names sitting here today. I think if those licenses were available it would help attract some of those big box users.”
Coppola translated big box retailers selling alcohol into a “liquor store.” Something Fire disagreed with.
“I hate to even call them a liquor store. Big box retailers that sell alcohol,” Fire said. … “It would be more than just alcohol.”
Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis shared Coppola’s concern.
“I share [Coppola’s] apprehension about having two liquor stores [on Route 1],” DeVellis said. “It doesn’t make sense to me but it’s on the list. There’s going to be the good, the bad and the ugly [in negotiation] that you have to juggle through.”
Fire pointed out that all they’re asking for are the licenses, reminding the board that the town must approve any use of that license if obtained.
“Obviously if it got to the point of us having a user we would come before the board, they would come before the board and request it,” Fire said. “To be able to have those licenses available where as right now they are not will help us collectively attract potential large-scale users to Route 1.”
Medical Center Looks to Expand
Brigham and Women’s/Mass General Health Care Center has done “very well,” according to Fire and is looking to expand within the building.
Right Type of Retail
Fire admitted retail at Patriot Place started slowly because of the economy in 2008 when the complex opened. However, the right type of retail, like Trader Joe’s, can be successful for both the Kraft Group and the town.
“We are building on [retail] with things like Trader Joe’s, [something] the community spoke up and said [they wanted] at Patriot Place,” Fire said. “It has opened very successfully. … We hope to parlay that into more successful retail openings.”
Multi-Family Housing Along Route 1
“We know with the town’s Master Plan effort and with the Housing Production Plan effort there are some opportunities to tie in with that,” Fire said. “Some selective zoning modifications [along Route 1] … things like multi-family housing done the right way that are consistent with your goals for housing production.”
Sullivan asked for more details as to what type of housing the Kraft Group had in mind along Route 1. Fire said while the Kraft Group doesn’t have a specific plan ready to go, the concept would be multi-family done to “a high quality level and tastefully.”
He was able to provide some detail as to what the Kraft Group has discussed.
“Scale of the housing, based on one of the parcels we had evaluated was 200 to 300 units,” Fire said. … “I think the goal would be to work with the town, the planning board and make it the right fit for everybody. We are not really ready to lay out a more specific plan until we have more discussion with all of you.”
In addition to identifying the town’s need for multi-family housing as part of the Housing Production Plan, Fire said the concept for housing near or at Patriot Place was something the Kraft Group studied during initial planning of the shopping, dining and entertainment complex.
“One of the things we learned with Patriot Place, when we first planned it, we considered some residential built into the project,” Fire said. “Some projects we visited around the country had second and third floor residential above ground floor retail. It was a bit cumbersome to execute that in the time frame we were looking to launch Patriot Place so we just tabled it. To make Patriot Place a true mixed-use project, we have dining, shopping and entertainment, but we don’t have the residential. If there’s a smart way to add [residential] then it just adds to the cycling of the entire area there.”
Fire said potential housing along Route 1 could be something that is transit-oriented if the rail stop was fully activated.
“It’s there already,” Fire said. “It can tie in, hopefully, with some future development across the street.”
Other Route 1 Development
“There’s some uses up and down Route 1 that we’ve been contacted about – a car wash, gas station, things like that,” Fire said.
Wind Turbines and Other Renewable Energy
Selectman Lynda Walsh asked the Kraft Group to discuss any plans for wind turbines. Fire said while he didn’t have any specifics, the Kraft Group is always looking at sources of renewable energy.
“Generally, we are always looking for renewable energy opportunities,” Fire said. “You’ve seen what we’ve been doing with the solar project at Patriot Place. There are other opportunities that have come up that we would like to put on the table as part of the discussion.”
Murphy told selectmen these development concepts have been discussed for “a couple of years” and the Kraft Group is ready to sit down and negotiate them with the town.
Sullivan and fellow board members agreed now is the time to move forward with the Kraft Group and engage in formal negotiations.
“I have had a lot of calls from constituents on both sides of this issue in the last three to four weeks,” Sullivan said. “One [call] stood out to me … it would be derelict to our duties as selectmen that represent the voters of the town to not at least talk about this [development] and then report back to the board and see what the board wants to do with it. … I gave that a lot of thought in the last week or so. We need to move forward with this. I think it’s to the best interest in the community and to the taxpayer to get more revenue.”
Call for Comments: What do you think about some of the development ideas the Kraft Group is proposing to the town? Tell us in the comments section!