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Norfolk/Wrentham - Local Town Pages

Southwood Hospital Redevelopment Options Discussed at Meeting

By Joe Stewart

On Tuesday, October 11, the Norfolk Planning Board held a public meeting and presentation on the Southwood Hospital redevelopment scenario analysis performed by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the regional planning agency serving the cities and towns of Metropolitan Boston.  Josh Fiala, Principal Planner, summarized the analysis and results.

The Southwood Hospital site is an 88-acre parcel on route 1A near the Walpole border comprising the abandoned Southwood Hospital complex (vacant for 20 years), wetlands and open space, and polluted areas requiring substantial remediation before the site can be developed. The property is owned by GFI Partners through its subsidiary 111 Dedham Street Inc.

Last year, a community workshop and survey were conducted by Norfolk and the MAPC which concluded that Norfolk residents prefer use of the property as open space followed by restaurant, retail, clean energy production, mixed use, and senior living while the majority do not support housing (ranging from single family homes through large scale multi-family). 

This year, the MAPC conducted scenario analysis to help Norfolk understand potential redevelopment options. Mr. Fiala discussed how the 15 analyzed scenarios were selected, organized, and evaluated. He went on to explain the factors selected for the analysis, including three factors that determine development viability:  financial feasibility, market potential, and environmental remediation.

The analysis concluded that there are five scenarios that are both viable and aligned with Norfolk’s preferred uses: 

• Light industrial/warehouse

• Light industrial/warehouse with residential

• Assisted living

• Major residential (more than 400 units)

• Modest residential (more than 300 units)

The analysis also uncovered that current zoning would prevent development of the site for those uses and there are uses that are simply not feasible. Among them are a solar farm, hospital, retail, office park, open space only, and single-family homes.  In other words, zoning changes are required to redevelop the site.

Bill Buckley, GFI Partners’ Project Manager, said that they are embarking on additional testing at the site because extensive cleanup and remediation is required before any development can take place. The testing will involve additional borings and new groundwater monitoring wells, both of which require Norfolk Conservation Commission approval. The testing will provide additional data which will be used to assess the scope and scale of remediation. And that, in turn, will inform which scenarios are viable. He wrapped up by noting, “We all want a good product that will clean up the site.”

A longtime Norfolk resident attended the meeting, Mr. Roy Hamlin, who founded Hamlin Cabinet with his wife Eileen in 1964. Mr. Hamlin noted that Norfolk needs new sources of revenue and recommended that the town prioritize tax revenue when assessing development options.

In a subsequent conversation, Richard McCarthy, Jr., Norfolk’s Town Planner, said that the site has development challenges including a deed restriction that the Massachusetts legislature would need to lift, water issues as Norfolk needs to secure additional supply to support ongoing growth, and no wastewater treatment facilities.  Mr. McCarthy also shared that the town is in the midst of its Master Plan review that will likely inform future development of the site.  

Mr. Fiala highlighted that there are multiple “tracks” involved in redeveloping the Southwood Hospital site:  future site uses and zoning are in one track while the contamination and remediation are in another track.  Interested residents are encouraged to stay informed on both tracks. 

The Norfolk Planning Board has organized an online folder in which presentations, reports, and related documents are available to the public: