Paragon Park land owners again propose apartments, retail

Paragon Park land owners again propose apartments, retail

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HULL – The proprietors of Paragon Boardwalk have returned with plans to develop the site that for nearly eight decades was home to Hull’s very own “miniature world’s fair,” a core summer memory for many across New England.

But some residents feel that the design isn’t quite the fit as the town’s “gateway.”

Chris and Diana Reale, through Middleton-based developer The Procopio Companies, are once more seeking to build apartments and commercial space on the more than three acres that used to partially comprise Paragon Park. The land they purchased for $2 million sits between Nantasket Avenue and George Washington Boulevard.

Their latest proposal, known as Paragon Dunes, calls for a 40-foot-tall, four-story building with 132 market-rate apartments and just under 7,000 square feet of retail space. The building would have lap siding in gradient shades of blue, brown and white. There would be a private pool for residents and two public “pocket” parks that together total 4,100 square feet. A parking garage partially underground would be available to residents. Additional surface parking spaces are proposed on the strip of land between the parking lot on George Washington Boulevard and The Horizons at Paragon Park property, which is the condominium complex that was built after Paragon Park closed. 

The 1928 carousel – the last remaining vestige of Paragon Park, with 66 wooden horses, 36 cherubs, 18 goddesses and two Roman chariots – and its accompanying museum situated in the clock tower building will stay intact. The ArtWalk, which opened in 2019, will also stay put. But the arcade and mini golf course would be razed.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO: Paragon Park’s rollercoaster

This is at least the third version of the development project proposed by the Reales. After purchasing the properties in 2017 the couple worked to revitalize the strip of Nantasket Avenue, including renovating the arcade with modern games and the food window between the arcade and mini golf course. The Fascination, the vintage game hall that held the state’s only parimutuel gaming license, had stayed pretty much the same. It all reopened in 2018.

The Reales, in 2021, decided to pitch a five-story, 141-unit apartment building that would go in the arcade’s place after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the arcade’s closure through the 2020 season, according to Patriot Ledger archives. The plans were pulled eight months later

Earlier this year, they pitched a larger project on the site that would have seen a six-story building and two-story commercial space connected with the existing boardwalk. There would be 142 market-rate units and 25,000 square feet of retail. The developers sought a special permit to allow for the tallest building to be 75 feet high, as the overlay district the property is covered by only allows a maximum height of 40 feet. The permit request was withdrawn shortly thereafter.

The town’s design review board first saw the latest iteration of the project in October. The board responded with a two-page letter with critiques of the design, saying it lacked adequate public open space, overshadowed the carousel and clock tower building and that the parking is “not reasonably functional or practical.”

When the planning board heard details of the project this month, the development team said architectural changes were already being considered.

“This location, right now, we don’t think it’s living up to its full potential,” said David Roache, director of development for The Procopio Companies, during the Dec. 6 meeting. With the new project, developers hoped to create even more of a year-round draw to the area beyond Nantasket Beach to increase walkability and improve the public space.

Still, board members and residents didn’t hold back from expressing their thoughts about the project.

“With all due respect, this building looks like an office building on (Route) 128 to me,” said Planning Board member Henry Claude Hibbard.

Hibbard added that he wouldn’t be supportive of the project unless there was more commercial space, saying the proposal, as-is, was a “non-starter.”

More than a dozen residents gave their thoughts about the project, from the parking layout to the need for more affordable units.

“I’m beginning to feel like I’m living in a hole surrounded by apartment complexes,” said Hull resident Diane Acerra, adding that more commercial space is what was intended through the overlay district.

Resident Frances Ryan moved from Quincy to Hull with her husband.

“It’s a funky town. If you have that design, it won’t be the funky town that everyone loves,” she said.

Planning board member Jeanne Paquin said she was concerned that the development would overshadow the carousel and clock tower.

“This is such an important property in this town. It’s the gateway,” she said. “The juxtaposition of those historical treasured pieces of architecture in this town with this very cold, sterile building to me just doesn’t feel right.”

The planning board will meet again on Jan. 10 to continue discussions about the project. Chair Meghan Reilly emphasized the need for all parties to have their say.

“We’re all going to need to work together to make sure that when people drive into town, it’s not talked about for years to come as, ‘We wish this didn’t go through,’” said Planning Chair Meghan Reilly.

Hannah Morse covers growth and development for The Patriot Ledger. Contact her at hmorse@patriotledger.com.

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