Chamber News

Needham / Newton
February 05, 2021 Likes Comments

40 is the new 25 (and other news)

Back in late December when Gov. Charlie Baker ordered virtually all business statewide to reduce capacity to 25 percent, he promised the restrictions would be reversed when the data improved.

 
True to his word, Baker is lifting the capacity cap to 40 percent for most businesses, effective Monday Feb. 8.
 
The change includes restaurants, stores, fitness centers, offices, museums, houses of worship and hair salons, among others. Movie theaters may also resume to 40 percent but with a 50 people per theater cap.
 
Current restrictions limiting gathering sizes to 10 persons indoors and 25 persons outdoors were not lifted. Restaurants still need to abide by 90-minute time limit for dining and six people maximum party size.
 
“We know that these restrictions have been and continue to be enormously difficult for large and small businesses, their employees, and for individuals everywhere,” Baker said.
 
And he defended the decision in spite of concerns about new COVID variants.
 
"Let's remember that we've been assuming that the variants have been here for quite a while, discovered or not … dating back into December and maybe even as far back as Thanksgiving," he said. "And yet we have seen dramatic declines in both hospitalizations and case counts since sort of early January.”
 
“The details in these occupancy limitation orders frankly matter less than the messaging it indicates, that things are getting better, people are getting the [vaccination] shots,” Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts told the Globe. “It’s more the overall messaging to consumers that things are getting better.”
 
Who’s next for the vaccine
 
One million Massachusetts residents age 75-plus are currently eligible to receive the COVID vaccine. In the batter's box are Individuals 65-plus; individuals with 2+ certain medical conditions; and residents and staff of low income and affordable senior housing.
 
Then comes a long list of essential workers including teachers, those in grocery, restaurants, public health, public works, food pantries, pharmacies and transportation, among others.
 
Of all those professions, teachers will be next Baker revealed yesterday. It’s not entirely clear who’s next after that, but this list may be a good guide for the moment.
 
More biotech and Bluebikes in (where else?) Watertown
 
A building at 580 Pleasant Street in Watertown (between the Charles River and Russo’s) will be gutted and renovated to create Class A lab space. The 145,000 sq. ft. building was purchased by Griffith Properties for $21.5 million, Boston Real Estate Times reports.

And all those life sciences workers finding new jobs in Watertown will be able to take advantage of a new Bluebike station in Watertown Square, along with road and sidewalk, pedestrian safety beacons and curb extensions, thanks to a grant from the MassDOT ( Watertown News).

The $280,218 grant is part of the state's Shared Winter Streets and Spaces program. The bike share station will be near the entrance to the Charles River Path, not far from Boston Development’s life sciences project on Galen Street.
 
Meanwhile in Newton...
 
I hope Newton’s elected leaders are paying attention to that explosion of life sciences developments just over the river in Watertown.
 
For years, Newton City Councilors have been asking me how Newton can expand its commercial tax base as a way to lessen the burden on residential owners.
 
Turns out the council will soon have a chance to bring a major life science project to Newton, thanks to Mark Development which is proposing building a life sciences/laboratory center at its Riverside T Station project.
 
The lab space would replace a proposed hotel and office building, understandable decisions given the market.

City councilors unanimously approved Riverside in October. They should be thrilled with this proposed change and ready to give it 24 sets of enthusiastic thumbs-up when it comes before them this spring.
 
P is for PPP problems

The Mass Restaurant Association is reporting that some second draw PPP applications filed with Citizen's Bank, and possibly other banks, have been recently rejected by the SBA portal. This appears to be an issue across the country and the SBA is looking into a resolution, as there are a number of different reasons being noted for the declines.

Last week, the SBA announced that it is taking steps to improve the agency’s first draw PPP loan review process so that small businesses seeking a second-draw loan have as much time as possible to access those funds.

M is for masks
 
 
Wellesley added to chamber scholarship program
 
The chamber is offering scholarship opportunities to three deserving students who either live in Needham, Newton and -- new this year -- Wellesley and/or who attend school in Needham, Newton or Wellesley and who have been accepted at, and intend to attend, an accredited college or university in the next academic year.
 
For more information and to apply, go here.
 
Charles River Y reopening closed site
 
Needham's Charles River YMCA is reopening its building at 380 Chestnut Street with a modified schedule beginning Monday. The Chestnut location was temporarily closed last month as operations were consolidated to the Great Plain Ave location. New hours here.
 
Need to knows
  • The MetroWest Regional Transit Authority is changing transportation service on Bus Route 8 in Wellesley. This route will be replaced with a new on-demand, app-based service called CATCH Connect that will operate within the community and to Newton-Wellselley Hospital, the Woodland and Waban BMTA stations, among others.

 

  • Low-income tenants and owner occupants facing eviction may be eligible for free legal help through the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project. This new resource organized by the Commonwealth provides a one-stop shop for legal aid from multiple Massachusetts organizations.

 

  • The Town of Needham will begin offering additional public vaccination appointments beginning this weekend at Center at the Heights, at 300 Hillside Avenue. Appointments must be made online at www.maimmunizations.org. The clinic is named “Needham: Public Health Clinic.” Contact needhamvaccine@needhamma.gov or call 781-455-7934 if you have questions.
4,000 more businesses awarded state grants

Gov Baker announced another $173.9 million in awards to 4,043 additional small businesses in the sixth round of COVID relief grants administered by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation.
 
The latest round includes more than 1,300 restaurants, bars, caterers and food trucks, more than 1,200 personal care and beauty businesses, 554 independent retailers, 462 event support companies, 371 gyms and fitness centers and 124 indoor recreation or entertainment venues.
 
In total the program has awarded more than $450 million in direct financial support to 9,900 small businesses.
 
Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy said there’s still funds yet to be allocated, so if your business applied for the program last month there’s still a chance you will get a grant.
 
Kennealy also said MGCC is even going back and reviewing applications that might have been missing some documentation and inviting qualified applicants to submit the documents now for consideration.
 
Needham’s Bulian won’t seek reelection

After 18 years as a Needham Select Person and four times as the board’s chair, John Bulian says he will not seek reelection.

“To have served Needham in this way represents one of the most gratifying experiences of my life,” Bulian wrote in a Facebook announcement.
 
Bulian said he looks forward to spending more time with “my sons, Max & Jake, who I have not been able to hug for almost a year, to continue working in my business [BostonBlinds, a chamber member] and to play more tennis.”
 
Prior to Bulian’s announcement, two challengers -- Marcus Nelson, a director of membership sales and service at YMCA Greater Boston and Lakshmi Balachandra, associate professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College – had already stepped forward to challenge Bulian and current board chair Moe Handel for the two seats on the April ballot.
 
Handel is seeking reelection, which means there are now three candidates seeking two slots, with the top two voter getters prevailing.

We didn't always agree, but I'm grateful to John Bulian for the passion, commitment and humor he brought to just about everything. And virtually every restaurant in Needham (and a few in Newton) should appreciate his unending enthusiasm for ordering takeout during the pandemic.

Enjoy the Super Bowl with some take out too, Take good care this weekend.

President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.
Dine out. Take out. Shop locally. Mask up. And tip generously.

 

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