Transit Oriented Development (TOD)
Suburban
Case Study

Concord, Massachusetts

Historic Development Trends

The Town of Concord, located 15 miles west of Boston, was established in 1635 as a farming community. Train service first arrived in the late 1860s, with stations built in Concord Center and West Concord. The Concord Center station is located about 1/3 mile from the historic business center of Concord, which today is recognized as a major tourist destination. The station serves commuters heading to jobs in Boston as well as tourists headed to historic sites in Concord.

Aerial view of Concord, MA.Before the advent of the automobile, the train stations played a central role in shaping development patterns in Concord. Businesses and residents were built in close proximity to the stations, which provided direct access to downtown Boston. After automobiles became widespread, development in Concord became more dispersed, and locations around the stations became less desirable. A 2.71 acre site directly across the train tracks from the original station building was converted to a lumber yard, which operated on the site until the early 1990s. Small retail businesses located along Thoreau Street across from the station. Other sites surrounding the station were converted to a range of uses including a gas station, a supermarket, and a Friendly's Ice Cream restaurant.

Planning for Transit-Oriented Development

In 1987 the Town prepared a long range plan intended to direct development in Concord. The long range plan identified the Concord Center station as an important node for future higher density commercial and residential development. The Town particularly recognized the potential to redevelop the lumber yard site with uses that might benefit from a location in close proximity to the commuter rail station.

Apartments over offices at the Concord Commons development, adjacent to the commuter rail station.
Apartments over offices at the Concord Commons development, adjacent to the commuter rail station
The Concord Common TOD

The resulting Concord Common development comprises three mixed use buildings with retail space, office space, a 180 seat restaurant, and 20 rental apartments. The Town strongly urged the developer to include 2 affordable units at the site, although the final agreement required that he provide four affordable units at another location in the Town, allowing all the units at the station to be rented at market rates. The zoning required 146 parking spaces for the mix of uses proposed. However, the developer negotiated a reduction of 20 spaces by demonstrating that shared parking could be successful in meeting demand. The project included 15 spaces dedicated to commuter parking.

Landscaped island in the parking lot at Concord Common.
Landscaped island in the parking lot at Concord Common

Open Space and Pedestrian Amenities

The Planning Board negotiated a reduction in the impervious lot area from 2.15 acres to 1.93 acres, and the inclusion of a landscaped garden area for residents. The developer also agreed to provide a landscaped pathway from Sudbury Road to the platform, creating a pleasant pedestrian accessway. Finally, because the Concord Common development directly abuts an established residential neighborhood, the developer designed the building facing the residential street at a scale that blended well with the existing housing, and provided a vegetative screen between the parking lot and the neighborhood.

Reuse of a Historic Train Station and Adjacent Supporting Uses

Restaurant and retail uses in the historic Concord Center station building.
Restaurant and retail uses in the historic Concord Center station building
The Concord Common development is just one element of a vibrant mixed use neighborhood surrounding the Concord Center commuter rail station. The old station building represents a stunning example of historic train stations of the mid-1800s. The building has been meticulously preserved and now houses an upscale general store on the ground floor and a sit down restaurant on the second floor. Two corner lots at the intersection of Sudbury Road and Thoreau Street have undergone several transformations and now are home to a Dunkin' Donuts and a Starbucks. A mix of retail and office uses line both Thoreau and Sudbury Road within an easy walk to station

With thoughtful planning and attention to the market, the Town of Concord successfully transformed the Concord Center commuter rail station into a center of retail, office, restaurant and residential activity. Through early intervention and persistent negotiations with the developer, the Town has achieved a model TOD at its historic train station.