Back in November of 2022, we reported that the former Rite Aid building at 25 Haven Street was back on the market for $3 million dollars. At that time, it appeared the developer Walderi Lima, was reconsidering plans to build a four-story mixed-use building. Originally, the 18,933 square foot lot was before CPDC back in June 2022 with plans on building 25 residential units and 2 retail spaces with garage parking.
What has transpired since last year though, was the developer/owner responding to an RFP from the Town of Reading looking for land/building for a potential new community/senior center. Also responding to that RFP was the former Walgreens owner at 17 Harnden Street. Both buildings came before the Select Board in 2023 and ultimately, the board decided to proceed negotiating with 17 Harnden Street instead. Then in April of 2023, then chair Mark Dockser, reported “In consultation with town counsel and bond counsel, the structure of a purchase and sale agreement proposed by the current owner is not something that as a municipality we are able to execute”. It was back to the drawing board but without 25 Haven Street as an option.
Fast forward to July 10, 2023 and the Community Planning & Development Commission (CPDC) now has 25 Haven Street on the agenda, an application from the non-profit North American Foundation of Islamic Services (NAFIS). The Applicant proposes to redevelop the 25 Haven St site into a three story, ~23,000sf Mosque and educational center. The existing single-story structure is to be improved with new masonry and window treatment. The stories above shall consist of masonry, clapboard siding and window treatment.
The use of this site as a religious use is protected under the Dover Amendment, which exempts agricultural, religious, and educational uses from certain zoning restrictions. The same amendment was used on 186 Summer Ave over a decade ago.
The site plan is currently calling for 26 parking spots to be created. Typically in this situation, the Zoning Bylaw would require 77 parking spots but because of the Brande Court municipal parking lot falling within 300′ of the building, they are exempt from it. The site plan also references the hours of operation will be mostly weekday evenings from 7-9pm, weekends from 10am-2pm and 7-9pm, Fridays from 1-2pm. For Friday gatherings the use anticipates 80-100 people attending services, many of them traveling together.
One thing of note, the Town of Reading’s parking regulations, only reference Sunday Worship exemptions.
You can read more about the plans for the center from their LaunchGood (GoFundMe alternative) donation page, which also includes video links. They are looking for $100,000 in donations for roughly $650,000 worth of projected improvements.
The Public may attend the 7:00PM CPDC meeting in-person in the Select Board Meeting Room or remotely via Zoom with the following link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84349524163. As of the writing of this article, there is no RCTV YouTube link to watch the meeting but we will update this article if and when there is.
The complete list of pdf plans, combined and compressed into a single file are below: