Metro, Newton

Plans for Newton Affordable Housing Development Prompt Traffic Concerns at Council Meeting

A housing development in Newton Upper Falls would offer over 100 affordable housing units and attract businesses to the area, said Peter Standish, a senior vice president at real estate equity firm Northland, at an Area Council meeting on Thursday. 

But some Newton residents expressed concern with the proposed development, citing potential strains on area roads and transportation. 

“Needham Street is already overpacked,” Karen Slifka, an area resident, said. “The 800 [units at another development] is already too much, and now you’re saying 400 on top of that. It’s not good for Needham Street—I live here right off of it—so it’s not good.”

In addition to the 103 affordable housing units, the eight-story development would consist of an additional 307 apartments, according to Standish.

The development would be in compliance with Massachusetts state statute 40B, which specifies that at least 20 to 25 percent of the units at the new development will have restrictions preserving the units’ affordability in the long term.

The development would occupy a seven-acre property wedged between Charlemont and Christina Streets behind the Marshalls store at 260 Needham St. The property is currently occupied by two industrial buildings, Standish said.

It would also include 495 parking spaces, according to Standish. All but 18 of the spaces would be underground, he said. 

“Pushing that parking underground allows us to create this open space,” Standish said.

Standish said the development also includes two commercial spaces. A proposed 8,000-square-foot commercial space would border Charlemont Street. Another proposed 2,000-square-foot space for recreation-oriented businesses borders Christina Street, he said.

“And the idea with these pieces are, particularly with Charlemont Street, is to really help activate Charlemont Street and be able to attract a use that that really is sort of conducive to that type of activity,” Standish said.

One side of the property runs alongside a large residential area. The proposed building would be shorter near the neighborhood than it is on Needham Street, according to Standish.

“The intent that we’ve taken with this designer to really try to push back the building footprint against the retail buildings along Needham Street, so really to create … a green space buffer with the residential neighborhood,” he said.

Standish said the development would include greenways and outdoor recreation spaces, in addition to a pedestrian and bike path connecting Charlemont and Christina Streets. 

The property sits next to the Charles River. An abandoned rail bridge spans the river nearby, Standish said. If the bridge gets rebuilt, he said, the pathway included in the development could connect Newton and Needham, which sits on the other side of the river.

“[A rebuilt bridge] creates all sorts of opportunities in terms of connecting in recreational opportunity, both on the Newton side and on the Needham side,” Standish said.

One meeting attendee said he liked the recreational opportunities that the project offered. But, he said, the project could overload the Green Line of the MBTA, in addition to area roads.

“I love how you’re looking to tie in the rail trail and create other bike trails to get over towards Wells Avenue, et cetera,” the attendee said. “But I think the key—certainly from a Village Falls perspective, and that’s what I’m representing—the key concerns are going to be traveling.” 

Stephen Buchbinder, a Boston-area real estate lawyer, said the new project is still at the very beginning of the development process. Buchbinder said he hopes a site approval application will be filed with MassHousing, an agency that finances affordable housing in the state, by the end of February.

“This is still very much the beginning of the stage, and we do anticipate holding [a] broader community meeting sometime in March,” Buchbinder said. 

 

Featured Image by Victor Stefanescu / Heights Editor

February 18, 2022
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