EASTHAM — Back in December, the T-Time Development Committee submitted a lengthy list of recommendations for use of the town-owned parcel at 4790 State Highway, a former driving range. That list included a community center, housing, undeveloped green areas, and some form of space for entrepreneurs.
With the year-long design process now underway, it remains unclear how much of the parcel each of those uses will receive.
Voters agreed to purchase T-Time at the 2019 annual town meeting. By last spring, the development committee had sifted through 2,200 survey responses and teed up three follow-up forums. The committee’s long list of recommendations was approved in December by the select board.
The next challenge: mapping the community’s hopes onto an 11-acre reality.
“Were there conversations about how we might appropriate the space we have for some of these things that are going to be competing for land?” asked Jeremy Lake, a senior associate from the Providence-based master planning firm Union Studio Architecture and Community Design, during an April 13 meeting.
Union Studio was chosen in February to lead a year-long master planning process to shape what will become the North Eastham Village Center. He had been talking with leaders of the recreation dept. the council on aging (COA), and the T-Time Committee.
“We didn’t get to that point,” T-Time Committee chair Karen Strauss said of the group’s information-gathering, which it conducted last spring through fall. “That was going to be part of this master planning discussion.”
At the April 13 meeting, each of the three groups brought some specific needs to the table and lobbied for T-Time to provide solutions.
Recreation Dept. Assistant Director Jacob Congel said the community center needs a full-size gymnasium, which the elementary school lacks. He also requested programming rooms for children and teens because the town does not have a dedicated building for recreation. Finally, Congel asked that the planners include some outdoor amenities — pickleball courts for adults and a playground for preschool children.
COA Director Dorothy Burritt said that the council’s current facility on Nauset Road does not have enough rooms or good accessibility. If the COA chooses to relocate after concluding its strategic plan in June, Burritt said, sharing space with recreation would be fine. She just wants to make sure that there would be enough space to accommodate both groups. Burritt also asked the planners for a teaching kitchen and a dining room.
Strauss added that the new building would also need a large meeting area, as the town’s largest meeting space at present is located at the library and seats only 120 people. She also brought up the community’s desire for an indoor-outdoor pool — an idea that came up during her committee’s outreach work.
Cost and space will be issues, Lake suggested. “The community center of everybody’s dreams is probably four times the size of what the town could actually afford to build,” he said. In addition, Lake said, “If the community center gets everything it wants, that could end up taking up a good chunk of the site.”
That observation prompted Strauss to remind the group that the T-Time Committee’s research found demand for open space as well — “both naturalized and manicured.” Strauss added that “people did not want very dense housing there. If you do dense housing, it has to not look dense.”
Andrea Aldana, a member of the T-Time Committee who is also director of housing advocacy for the Community Development Partnership, said she hoped the planners could find inventive solutions to maximize the amenities with limited space. “I don’t know that we can do everything on the site, but I hope that we can do more than people realize,” she said.
“I think the priority uses should be based on evidenced need,” Aldana said. “I personally feel that this site can do a community center and housing. I think we can do two things really well and not try and do 20 things not so well.”
Aldana also suggested that Eastham consider partnering with neighboring towns to satisfy some of the community’s desires for the development. “While the needs of Eastham residents should be prioritized,” she said, “there are benefits in creating shared spaces where people can meet across towns.”
Another challenge for Union Studio will be ensuring the businesses at the nearby Town Center Plaza can continue to operate while that site is under construction. Lake pitched the idea of moving those businesses to the T-Time parcel to allow Town Center Plaza to be rebuilt while offering the businesses there better Route 6 frontage. But such a move would violate a restriction placed on the deed by Stop & Shop, the property’s previous owner, which prevents, among other things, the purchasing of food for offsite consumption.
“If you moved restaurants over there, unless some deal could be worked out with Stop & Shop, they’d be constrained in their ability to offer takeout,” said Strauss.
Work is already underway to make the town-owned T-Time land available for recreation while the master planning continues. Last July, the Mass. Dept. of Transportation Shared Streets and Spaces program awarded Eastham a $29,800 grant for the purpose. The DPW has built a stone trail connecting the front parking lot to the Cape Cod Rail Trail. Next, they will resurface an old tennis court. Picnic tables and bike racks will also be added.
The site is available for public use, but the town is asking people to remain on the paths for now because there is still work underway. The town will host a community event there on June 25.
Union Studio will hold its own forums to discuss the master plan at the Eastham Public Library on May 11 and again on June 8. According to Lake, his team will likely have drawings prepared to show the public at the second presentation.