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FRANKLIN, MA-The effort to revitalize the town’s CBD is starting to take shape with developer Robert Aron’s proposal to put 91 units in the 1.8-acre lot he owns at the intersection of Summer and Central streets.

The project would be developed on the grounds of what is now the Zeotrope Theater. Aron’s plans involve razing the theater and putting one five-story building in its place and another five-story building on the parking lot. A second floor would also be added to the block of retail stores that is currently adjacent to the theater.

The project is the beneficiary of the town’s recent zoning amendment that would allow multifamily development in commercial districts. The rezoning was done in an effort to bring life back to the downtown area but local residents, who approved the amendment, are responding to Aron’s proposal with mixed emotions.

“Everyone is pretty much of the same conclusion that it is too dense,” a town representative tells GlobeSt.com. In addition to the density, residents are concerned about the project’s impact on traffic.

But Ross Altobelli, Franklin’s assistant town planner contends that this project is what residents should have expected when they approved the zoning amendment. He tells GlobeSt.com that the amendment allows for 1 unit per 1,000 sf, which, at 91,000 sf are exactly the dimensions of the project. “We don’t see a problem in the density. If they want the town revitalized then this project isn’t a problem,” he says. “People see this town as a farming community but that’s not the truth anymore.”

He notes that the project needs to be redesigned to incorporate additional parking and that will probably lead to a slightly smaller project.

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