New Dunkin’ to bring traffic light, changes to East Street area

  • A view looking east on East Street toward its intersection with North Street (Route 5) in Easthampton on Friday. Plans call for this single-family home at 5 East St. to be razed for the construction of a Dunkin’. A stop light is planned for the intersection to help mitigate an expected increase in traffic. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A view looking east on East Street toward its intersection with North Street (Route 5) in Easthampton on Friday, April 30. A traffic signal is planned for the busy intersection to help mitigate an expected increase in traffic following the construction of a Dunkin' on East Street.

  • A rendering of the Dunkin’ proposed at the intersection of East Street and Route 5 in Easthampton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • A rendering of the Dunkin’ proposed at the intersection of East Street and Route 5 in Easthampton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • A view looking north on North Street (Rt. 5) in Easthampton on Friday, April 30. A traffic signal is planned for the busy intersection with East Street, at left, to help mitigate an expected increase in traffic after a Dunkin' is constructed at 5 and 9 East Street. Plans call for the demolition of a single-family home, center, at 5 East St. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A view looking south on North Street (Route 5) in Easthampton on Friday, April 30. A traffic signal is planned for the busy intersection with East Street to help mitigate an expected increase in traffic from a Dunkin' to be constructed on the site of the single-family home at right. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A view looking east on East Street in Easthampton on Friday, April 30, 2021. The construction of a Dunkin' on East Street near the intersection of North Street (Route 5) will require the demolition of a single-family home, right, at 5 East St. and a structure at 9 East St., left. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A view looking north across East Street toward North Street (Route 5) in Easthampton on Friday, April 30. The construction of a Dunkin' will require the demolition of this single-family home at 5 East St. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 5/2/2021 8:07:52 PM

EASTHAMPTON — A Dunkin’ proposed at a controversial location at the intersection of East Street and Route 5, which was approved for construction in March, is set to bring several changes to the abutting area.

The planned Dunkin’, located at 5 and 9 East St., drew concerns last summer from abutters and other city residents, who said that the doughnut and coffee chain would draw concerning levels of traffic and clash with the neighborhood’s historical, seemingly residential nature. But the area is actually zoned as a highway business district, allowing the developer, Westfield-based American Dream Realty, LLC, to gain approval for a Dunkin’ at the site.

While the Planning Board approved the Dunkin’ for construction, the project is contingent on the developers installing a stoplight at the intersection to help mitigate traffic concerns.

“Through the course of the hearing process, that became a key issue,” said City Planner Jeff Bagg, “and to resolve it, the applicants are agreeable to working with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to put in a light or traffic signal.”

The intersection of East Street and Route 5 has existing traffic issues, Bagg said. Specifically, trying to turn left off East Street onto Route 5 can already take a long time at peak hours, and many anticipate the Dunkin’ would make this delay even worse, particularly during the morning rush hour.

Before the construction of the Dunkin’ can begin, a single-family home on the property must be demolished. The applicants need to show they are at least 75% through the approval process for design and permitting of the stop light with MassDOT, and in their own private funding process, before demolishing the house.

The single-family home currently on the property raised its own issues: The structure is old enough that American Dream Realty needed to gain approval from the Historical Commission to demolish the house. The building is not deemed historically significant, according to Bagg, “but it does contribute to the historic neighborhood that was once there.”

Some residents also felt that this historic nature of the neighborhood makes the Dunkin’ an unwanted addition. 

Just over 1,100 people signed a petition created last year to oppose the project. Keely Savoie Sexton, who lives in the neighborhood and created the petition, said that she has “mixed feelings” about how the city handled the process and where the project stands now.

“A lot of my neighbors and myself, and surrounding people in the area, were really against a Dunkin’,” Sexton said, “and I feel like that was really left out of the consideration process.”

Though the city listened to public comment from abutters, the project’s approval seemed to hinge on legal and financial requirements, Sexton said, though the contingency for a traffic light was a welcome addition.

“I think that traffic light is really necessary,” Sexton noted. “It’s an unimaginable intersection, so that’s going to be a benefit whenever that goes through.”

Still, Sexton anticipates “major traffic disruptions,” as well as “litter all over the bike path,” which has a trailhead on the other side of the property. The proposed building also clashes with the residential aspects of the neighborhood, Sexton said, and would be one of the first sights to greet people entering Easthampton from Holyoke via Route 5.

American Dream Realty, which owns more than 10 Dunkin’ locations in Massachusetts, is working with R Levesque Associates land surveyor service. Permitting project manager Jessica Allan said that the applicants have had preliminary discussions with MassDOT, but are waiting for the final go-ahead to move forward with the project.

“So far we are on track with where we’re expected to be,” Allan said, “and there haven’t been any hiccups or delays in the process.”

Construction needs to start within two years under special permit requirements, but Allan anticipates it will begin “well ahead of that.”

The applicants worked with the Planning Board to mitigate the Dunkin’s impact on abutting properties, Allan said.

American Dream Realty owner, Emmanuel Sardinha, previously told the Gazette that the project coordinators “want to be good neighbors,” 

Plans and other materials for the Dunkin’ can be viewed on the city’s website at https://bit.ly/3gSxOy4

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.

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