BERLIN – The Berlin Planning Commission got its first look at the expansive apartment community planned for Seahawk Road this week.
Several representatives from Rinnier Development presented a concept plan for the first phase of the 700-plus unit apartment community to be built on Seahawk Road called Oceans East.
“We felt it best to come in early and often and get as much guidance as we can,” engineer Brock Parker said.
The development, which was able to move forward after the Town of Berlin approved annexation of the site, will be located on Seahawk Road behind the former Harley Davidson building. The first phase of the project will consist of the construction of a 4,000-square-foot community center as well as 144 apartments.
“Our goal in this first phase is to set the tone for the neighborhood, for the development,” architect Keith Fisher said. “To grab everyone’s attention.”
Fisher said that though the town code currently allowed apartment buildings with no more than 12 units, Rinnier Development was going to propose a text amendment to change that. He said the company wanted the Seahawk Road project to feature apartment buildings with 24 and 36 units to allow for more open space.
“Our goal was to emphasize how we could create a development that combined as much density as possible to afford more open space as well as create this courtyard feel and look so in the apartment you’d have access to green area,” Fisher said.
Parker said that by turning two 12-unit buildings into one 24-unit building the developer would provide the community — which will be built around a pond — more open space.
“By doing that what we’ve done is we’ve eliminated the separation distance between those buildings,” Parker said. “That’s allowed us to spread the open space out and avoid the fragmentation that’s created by the separation of those buildings.”
The apartment buildings will be positioned around a large pond featuring a fountain. Parker said the ponds had proved popular in other Rinnier developments.
“A lot of the residents in these communities have positive things to say about the sound of that fountain,” Parker said.
Commission members asked what rent would be for the apartments. Blair Rinnier of Rinnier Development said a two-bedroom apartment would be rented for just under $1,000 a month.
The primary concerns of commission members related to the traffic that the project would generate.
“I think this is the right place to put a project like this,” commission member Pete Cosby said. “I like what I’m looking at but I’m terrified of the traffic.”
Parker assured commission members the developer would be doing everything possible to ensure it did not become a problem. Seahawk Road, he said, would be widened to five lanes near the project’s entrance. In addition, the community will feature just one entrance, which will be accessible only by vehicles coming from the direction of Route 50.
“The entrance was designed to sharply restrict traffic to right turn out only toward 50 and the only movement into the project is a left turn in from 50,” Parker said, adding that the developer would also be installing sidewalks along the road.
Cosby questioned whether the Route 50 service road set to be built by Worcester County would connect to the project. Rinnier told him it would not.
“This ought to be fixed,” Cosby said. “It’s crazy. I can’t believe the county. I think that’s a huge loss. Interconnectivity is everything today.”
Cosby also asked Rinnier if he would consider providing space for a future bike and walking trail around the property. The developer said he would look into it before coming back to the planning commission for final site plan approval.