Chamber News

Needham / Newton
January 06, 2021 Likes Comments

Beacon Hill stops kicking the can


At 4:15 a.m. last night, Beacon Hill lawmakers finally stopped kicking the can down the road.

The House and the Senate passed a number of bills in the final, extended, hours of its two-year session, including an economic stimulus bill and transportation bond bill, reports Matt Murphy at State House News .

The $626.5 million economic development bill (H 5250) includes a version of Gov. Charlie Baker's long-stalled housing choice bill that would lower the threshold for some zoning changes to a simple majority.
The bill also caps the fees third-party delivery services such as DoorDash or UberEats can charge restaurants for their services at 15 percent for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. The cap also only applies to restaurants with fewer than 25 locations.
The bill also included $50 million in funding for transit-oriented housing, $30 million for a loan program similar to the federal Paycheck Protection Program for businesses hurt by COVID-19, and funding for job training, tourism, technology and advance manufacturing.
There’s also $35 million in loan funding for community development lending institutions to extend capital to small businesses, with a focus on minority- and women-owned businesses that have historically had trouble accessing financing and have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
There is $52 million set aside for science and technology research, $20 million for economic development in small, rural communities, $14 million for tourism, and $6 million to support artists and local museums.
And it creates a Future of Work commission to study how to promote sustainable jobs with fair benefits and workplace safety standards across industries. It also creates commissions to study the negative impact of changes in media on local journalism and how to help the arts community recover from the pandemic.
The transportation bond bill authorizes billions of dollars in bonds for highway and bridge maintenance, train modernization, and major capital projects such as a Red Line-Blue Line Connector, the extension of commuter rail service to the South Coast, and the approaches to the two Cape Cod bridges, according to Chris Lisinski at State House News.
It also increases to the flat per-ride fees charged on app-based services such as Uber and Lyft.
Get ready for PPP 2 now
The second round the Paycheck Protection Program has been approved and funded. But the application process is not yet open.
PPP2 will be open to employers that either didn't get a first PPP or those that already got one but also suffered significant revenue losses as a result of COVID-19, or closed and need more help. Here's a few links that may be helpful:
Although it's too early to apply for PPP 2, now is the time for apply for a state grant administered by Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation.
Preference will go to restaurants/bars, independent retailers, indoor recreation and entertainment, personal services and event support companies. Deadline is Jan. 15.
Restaurant updates
The Cottage restaurant in Wellesley has gone into hibernation at least until February, according to the Swellesley Report.
Swellesley also tells us that the new Wellesley Tavern, which has the same owners as The Cottage, will hold off its opening until March. It was originally slated to debut late in 2020 as a new family friendly restaurant at the former site of Door No. 7 in Linden Square.
Meanwhile, Not Your Average Joe’s is reportedly closing four locations for the winter but not, it appears, in Watertown, according to Boston Restaurant Talk.
Real estate market poised for a good year
Global pandemic or not, just over a third of commercial real estate brokers across the country said they made more money in 2020 than in 2019 (and that was said to be a damn fine year as well). The data comes from a new survey published by Bisnow.
Brokers surveyed also said transaction volume was down: 57% completed fewer transactions in 2020 than they did in 2019. They’re are also feeling optimistic about the year ahead, with 75% of brokers predicting they will make more money in 2021 than they did in 2020.
Today's need to knows
Boylston to unveil Arsenal Yards’ next phase

Boylston Properties will present plans and hold a discussion about Phase B of its Arsenal Yards master plan at two community meetings this month.
The discussion will focus on the proposed layout and design of One Arsenal Marketplace, the existing office building and parking garage located at 617 Arsenal Street.
The building currently includes occupied office space and the now closed Millers Ale House. Once renovated, the building will include office space, new and renovated life science space, reconfigured above and below grade parking with new parking ramps and revised loading access.
On Jan 11 at 6:30 p.m. Boylston will provide the full project presentation. On Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m., the meeting will include a brief review and follow-up from the first meeting.
And here’s what’s planned for the former Tufts HQ
Yesterday I noted that this week’s merger between Tufts Health Plan and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care will result in Tufts leaving its current headquarters in Watertown and Harvard Pilgrim leaving Wellesley. Employees from both firms moving to the yet-to-be-named new company’s HQ in Canton later this year.
Late last month, Spear Street Capital presented its plans for converting the Tufts current location at 705 Mt Auburn Street into a substantially improved life sciences facility. You can watch the full video from WCA-TV here. (With thanks to Watertown News for pointing it out.)
Will Baker lift the capacity cap? Doubtful
Gov. Charlie Baker said yesterday that he is acting on the assumption that the new more contagious variant of COVID-19 is already present in the state.
“There’d be no reason not to [believe it’s here], given the contagious nature of this new variant,” Baker said.
Combined with the continued acceleration of the virus and hospitalizations, the governor probably won't be lifting the 25 percent capacity cap that applies to nearly all businesses and had been set to expire this Sunday.
Also yesterday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced that he was extended his city’s even tighter restrictions. Walsh noted that it’s public behavior, not indoor dining and other business activity, that has him most concerned.
“Our contact tracing efforts have made it clear, even though indoor dining itself isn’t a high-risk factor, too many people are going out to dinner with people outside their households, outside of their bubble,” Walsh said.
“People have a few drinks and they kind of wander around, sometimes to see other people and they table hop. We need this to stop. ... We need to keep local restaurants open but only if people follow the public health guidelines.”
Thanks for reading. Be back tomorrow.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.
Dine out. Take out. Shop locally. Mask up. And tip generously.


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