Planning Board has Appetite for Restaurants

June 19, 2024
• A noodle shop could soon occupy the former auxiliary Harvey’s storefront, while Sweet Basil plans to provide outdoor seating along Great Plain Avenue this summer.

What was once additional space for Harvey’s Hardware — where customers would find homeware items — may transform into a noodle restaurant in the coming months.

At 998 Great Plain Ave., the restaurateurs behind Wen’s Yunnan Noodle & Ramen in Boston plan to open a third location, where they would specialize in ramen, noodle soup and other offerings. The space resides next to Union Pharmacy, which took over Harvey’s spot this spring.

The 36-seat restaurant would include a takeout station and be open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week, according to the site plans shared with the Planning Board Wednesday. WR Noodle Group, Inc. is behind the proposal.

The use of a restaurant in the zoning district requires a special permit, and attorney George Giunta Jr., representing WR Noodle Group, explained the need for a full parking waiver. The 36 seats necessitate 12 parking spaces, he said, with the takeout station alone requiring 10, which is “still an artifact in the bylaw.” By comparison, a retail store would require seven spaces.

Outside the restaurant, there’s “absolutely no parking whatsoever,” Giunta said, “not even a hint of a space.”

“In general, in the downtown area, almost all the businesses have this issue,” Giunta said to the board. “But this one, like a few in this sort of area, it has the the advantage of being literally right in front of large municipal parking lot, so it has very close proximity to a lot of available spaces, not to mention all the on-street spaces on Great Plain Avenue, up and down either direction.”

Prior to Harvey’s, 998 Great Plain Ave. was once home to a short-lived deli, which was preceded by a yogurt shop, Guinta said. Before that, Brigham’s Ice Cream occupied the space, dating back to the 1960s, he added.

The Board of Health stated the restaurant would need two full-size dumpsters, and Giunta indicated there’s existing dumpster space in the nearby alleyway off of Chestnut Street, behind the building. Giunta said there should be room for two half-size dumpsters and noted that smaller dumpsters would mean more frequent trash pick-ups.

The space will also need a bigger vestibule space for accessibility, as well as address fire suppression needs.

The board closed the hearing, and the restaurant permit will have the condition that the proponents receive approval from the Board of Health before construction and they revise their drawings to address those issues.

Vice Chair Artie Crocker said he’ll be looking forward to “some tasty ramen.”

“We welcome another restaurant in town. It’s a great town for restaurants,” Crocker said. “And I remember in Somerville, there was a ramen restaurant in Somerville, [maybe] Davis Square. People were going cuckoo about it, lines were down the block for ramen, and hopefully that will be the same thing here.”

Down Great Plain Avenue, Sweet Basil plans to put out outdoor seats as a permanent feature for al fresco dining. Chef and owner David Becker said their seasonal outdoor dining started during the pandemic.

Jersey barriers will surround two parking spaces, where about 28 seats will go, and another three tables will occupy the sidewalk outside the restaurant, according to the plans. The Planning Board granted a parking waiver for the 11 seats on the sidewalk beside the building, as the additional waiver for the remaining seats is contingent upon Select Board approval.

Sweet Basil, an Italian-American restaurant located at 942 Great Plain Ave., has been in business since March 2000, Becker said. After the discussion on the incoming noodle shop, Becker commented on the diverse food options in town.

“I think the only thing Needham’s missing now is barbeque,” Becker said.

The continued public hearing for restaurant Blue on Highland — which aims to expand into a neighboring commercial space — was pushed to the Planning Board’s July 11 meeting. During that meeting, the board will also likely make a decision regarding the proposed tennis court renovation and redesign at Needham High School.

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