Monday, July 22, 2024

A rendering of a lab building once proposed for Porter Square at 32-44 White St., Somerville.

A proposal for a four-story building in Porter Square is dead after a planning memo limited how much square footage could be used for its intended purpose: lab space. The developer withdrew the project from consideration before the Thursday meeting of Somerville’s Planning Board.

“While research and development or laboratory uses are permitted by right” in that district, “intensive R&D or laboratory uses were not intended to be the primary uses in commercial buildings,” according to a staff memo dated July 13. The memo suggested that a special permit for roof-mounted mechanical equipment be denied and that the percentage of gross floor area for R&D or labs be “less than 50 percent” forever.

As a result, SGL Development, based in Cambridgeport, found its plan unworkable.

The site at 32-44 White St., abutting the Cambridge border and across from the Porter Square Shopping Center, would have merged separately owned lots into one for construction of a 42,000-square-foot lab building. The site design passed review by the Urban Design Commission, and the Historic Preservation Commission has no objections to demolishing the old buildings – but that’s about where the stamps of approval ended.

“I don’t know what’s next” for the site, but it’s unlikely to include SGL, said the firm’s principal, Adam Siegel, on Monday. “It’ll probably sit vacant for a while. We notified the sellers we were no longer proceeding, and we’re not interested in proceeding with another project.”

The lab building would have replaced Fleming Printing at 40 White St., a squat, cinder block building holding a business identified as permanently closed, and the single-family homes on either side of it: 32 White St., built in 1844 and last sold in 2007 for $450,000; and 44 White St., a rustically wood-walled home built in 1900. (The last exchange of the property recorded by Somerville assessors was for $1 in 2006.)