Options for former Shaw's building in Falmouth may include medical offices

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FALMOUTH — Town councilors said property manager Tom Churchill told the Community Development Committee Aug. 4 that a medical facility is eyeing the former Shaw’s building in the Falmouth Shopping Center on Route 1.

But this week, Churchill backed away from his statement, which was made during a meeting attended by at least 10 members of the public.

“We have an interested party for a professional office, but that’s all I can tell you at this point,” Churchill said in a phone interview Monday. “If you print that it’s a medical facility I will never talk to you or The Forecaster again.”

Draft minutes of the CDC meeting, prepared by Director of Long-Range Planning Theo Holtwijk, do not specifically mention Churchill’s reference to a medical facility.

“Tom Churchill, representative of the shopping center owners, stated that the owners had recently been approached by a potentially interested tenant for the former Shaw’s space,” the minutes read. “The proposed use was a permitted non-retail use with approximately 100 employees. He was wondering what the committee thought of that.”

But elected officials who attended the meeting confirmed Churchill spoke specifically about a medical facility.

“(Churchill) said it would be a medical use, some kind of medical facility,” Town Councilor Will Armitage, a member of the CDC, said Monday. “He said they are discussing, negotiating, with a potential tenant, which would be a medical use and, according to their understanding, it would be a permitted use.”

Councilor Dave Libby, who is not a member of the committee, said when Churchill was pressed by the panel to give more specifics, he said a medical office is considering the building.

According to the draft minutes, Churchill also said “the lease would be with an established business and be long term,” leaving the committee to conclude that portion of the shopping center would “not be demolished,” which could have a “potential long-term impact on what can be done with the remainder of the property.”

When asked about the possibility of a medical facility, Holtwijk did not deny the statement had been made, but referred all inquiries to Churchill.

During the meeting, the committee discussed plans for an upcoming shopping center charette with consultant Mark Eyerman, Holtwijk said. Committee members chose to conduct a longer charette that will most likely be scheduled for a Saturday in November. Another option would have featured an abbreviated format that could have been accommodated on a weeknight.The committee is considering using one of the vacant spaces in the shopping center as the venue.

Procedurally, the charette will be similar to the facilities planning event with an overview, a video, small group discussions and keypad polling, Holtwijk said. There may also be a site walk scheduled for the public prior to the charette.

A key piece will be ensuring attendance from a wide range of Falmouth residents, he said. Most likely, the town will use e-mail lists, U.S. mail, advertising and communication through community groups to get the word out.

Andrew Gilmore, who represents the owners for the charette project, said Tuesday that the owners of the shopping center and surrounding property have put up $11,500 for the charette process – $10,000 for Eyerman’s consulting fees and $1,500 for half the cost of the keypad polling; the town will pick up the other half.

“I’m looking forward to the process,” he said.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.