By Rod Lee
In his office on the first floor of a handsome building on Southbridge St. in Auburn Michael C. O’Brien was thinking about a trade show coming up in New York City the following week.
“It is a three-day show” and a chance for his company, Galaxy Development LLC, to tout its capabilities to prospective clients including members of the retail industry.
Mr. O’Brien in his blue golf shirt open at the neck had first been approached for comment about a recent unanimous vote by selectmen in the town of Webster, where he lives, to set a single rate of $15.33 for property taxes, and by their counterparts in Auburn, where he works, to move a step closer to a single rate. In Webster’s case the 5-0 vote was the culmination of twelve years of trying by the town’s leaders to get to a place where businesses and residents are charged the same amount per $1000 of assessed valuation.
“I would rather not discuss property taxes,” Mr. O’Brien said, politely.
The subject turned instead to the multitude of projects Galaxy Development has completed or is taking on one of which is Connecticut where Mr. O’Brien began his career in commercial real estate in Middletown thirty-five years ago. Today, Galaxy specializes in the acquisition, development and renovation of commercial, residential and industrial properties throughout New England. Its team of Mr. O’Brien, Mary Hopson who is leasing administrator, Nigel Doyle who is director of construction and Kayla Cournoyer who is director of marketing is efficient and productive.
Nowhere is Galaxy Development’s presence more conspicuous than in Webster which Mr. O’Brien now calls “my hometown.” East Village Square on the grounds of the former Cranston Print Works is perhaps the best known of the Webster projects with such anchor tenants as the Price Chopper supermarket, Panera Bread, Verizon and GNC. But there is also the Millbrook Plaza across Worcester Road from the entrance to East Village Square, the Walgreen’s and Advance Auto stores on opposite sides of East Main St., a 15,000-square-foot Summit Elder Care facility operated by Fallon Health on Thompson Rd. that opened in July and “Everybody’s Fitness” on Sutton Rd. at Cudworth Rd. “We bought that site a few years ago and we cleaned up the whole property,” Mr. O’Brien said of the latter.
From north to south and east to west Galaxy is busy developing properties in what Mr. O’Brien calls “a very competitive field.” There is Wrentham Walk, The Trolley Yard at Grove St. and Park Ave. in Worcester, The Shoppes at Durham (CT), the Water St. Plaza in Fitchburg, Steadfast Family Dental in Auburn and Pleasant Valley Crossing in Sutton which houses a Market 32, a Starbucks, a UniBank and which will soon be home to “Love to Play” for kids and “Fresenius Dialysis.”
In Dudley, Galaxy took down “an old dilapidated car dealership” that had become an eyesore to make way for a Rite Aid. “We put up new—that’s what we do in four states,” he said.
“We have a lot going on.”
A hallmark of every Galaxy project is an emphasis on tasteful design and curb appeal.
“We want them to look good,” Mr. O’Brien said. “It’s important to leave a positive mark behind you in any town you do business in because that will open the doors to other development opportunities.”
The company takes pride in overcoming challenging environmental issues, clearing permitting hurdles and dealing with exorbitant development costs.
Giving back is central to the Galaxy mission, as evidenced by its support, for instance, of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Girl Scouts, the Webster Education Foundation, Little League, the Webster Police Department and the Webster Lake Association.
Repurposing the former headquarters and maintenance garage of the WRTA in North Worcester to create The Trolley Yard where the first three buildings are almost done has been a gamble but “we take on the responsibility and the risks and it always works out good for us,” Mr. O’Brien said.
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.