The Concord Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously on Thursday, May 10 to approve a special permit for Caffé Nero, which allows for a change of use of 55-57 Main St. and relieves them of the site’s parking requirements.
The decision allows Caffé Nero to use the site–once home to the Concord Toy Shop–for food services pending licensing from the Board of Health, and dismisses a requirement for the coffee shop to create an additional four parking spaces.
“I think the people of Concord will be happy that after two years that storefront won’t be vacant anymore,” Joel Kadis, principal of the site owner Linear Retail Properties, said.
The approval comes after a series of Planning Board meetings with Caffé Nero, during which plans for building capacity, delivery times and trash pickup were scrutinized and amended.
Lawyer Mark Bobrowski, who represented Caffé Nero during their appeal, called the process “exacting,” but said he believed the meetings led to a plan that made Caffé Nero a better fit for the neighborhood.
The Planning Board recommended that the appeal for the special permit be granted at a May 8 meeting, and ZBA chair James Smith said it was generally the policy of his board to follow Planning Board recommendations.
Concerns over parking
The parking requirement appeal was based on an increase in the expected parking needs of the site from 48 spaces to 55. In an evening when the majority of public comments were in support of the permit, one of the lone objections was based around allowing Caffé Nero to not fully account for that gap.
“I have no objection to Caffé Nero as a business,” Susan Walker of 95 Central St. said. “I do have a huge objection to giving any kind of special treatment to parking. Parking is a huge issue that can destroy all kinds of businesses.”
In response to these concerns, Bobrowski said the coffee shop had leased four parking spaces from its neighboring store Fitz & Gigi for its employees to use, shrinking that gap to four spaces. Caffé Nero’s legal team also provided a parking study which showed samples from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in October, December and January and revealed there were more than 55 available parking spaces at all times within a five-minute walk of the store front.
Awaiting other approvals
ZBA members also inquired about enforcement a number of conditions attached to the special permit that involved scheduling of deliveries. Building Commissioner Laurie Livoli said there was no policy of monitoring companies that receive these permits. Any violations would need to be reported as complaints, which would then be investigated by the town.
Caffé Nero was also still awaiting approval from the Historic Districts Commission for a screen in front of their garbage bins and an outdoor light for the area. Thus far, the commission has praised the company for its proposal, awarding it the 2018 Restoration Project of the Year, according to Bobrowski.
Kadis said the next steps for Caffé Nero will be securing construction permits and food service licensing.