Newton residents decisively voted in favor of the Northland Newton project on March 3; delivering a clear message that Newton wants to be a city that is more welcoming and part of the solution to the region's housing crisis and climate change.
Voters upheld the Newton City Council's super-majority vote in support of the mixed-use project by 5,052 votes: 18,450 to 13,398, or 58 percent to 42 percent.
The project will consist of 14 buildings on just under 23 acres at the corner of Needham and Oak Street. It will include 800 apartments, including 140 affordable units; 180,000 square feet of office space, 115,000 square feet of retail and community space and about 10 acres of open space.
The Newton-based company spent more than three years presenting, modifying and negotiating its project. They attended literally hundreds of community meetings, followed by 16 public hearings and funded multiple traffic studies, environmental impact reports and design reviews.
After listening to community input, Northland reduced the project from 2 million to 1.1 million square feet. They offered to fund free electric shuttle buses every ten minutes to Newton Highlands. They agreed to a $10 million package of community benefits, including money to renovate Countryside Elementary School, fund traffic mitigation and water and sewer infrastructure. They increased the open space to ten acres, including a splash park and playground that were specifically requested by neighbors. They introduced cutting edge environmental standards. They reduced residential parking spaces and pushed all the parking underground. They agreed to spend $1.5 million undergrounding utility lines.
Northland is expected to begin demolition at the site later this year, with construction beginning in early 2021, according to the Boston Globe.
Even before the Northland’s ground breaking the state will begin a $30 million renovation of the two mile stretch of Needham Street, extending to Route 9 and Winchester Street in Newton and along Highland Ave. to the fire station in Needham.
“This project won't just transform 24 acres into a vibrant, thoughtful, sustainable, amenity rich community. It will activate and energize Needham Street and beyond; bringing new businesses, new jobs, new tax revenue and vitality to our city,” said Chamber President Greg Reibman.
Reibman said Tuesday’s vote also sent a message that voters have faith in their city leaders who negotiated an aggressive transportation demand management program from Northland and other community give backs.
The chamber was part of a broad coalition of housing activists, environmentalists, clergy and other civic groups who worked together on the referendum campaign. The project was also endorsed by the Boston Globe.
“Thank you to the thousands of Newton residents who voted in favor of bringing affordable housing, new open space, sustainable design, and smart growth to our city,” said Allison Sharma, chair of the Yes for Newton’s Future ballot campaign in support of the Northland Newton project. “The Northland Newton project is a huge win both for current residents and for future neighbors who will now have the opportunity to join our community. We are grateful to the hundreds of volunteers who worked tirelessly to inform voters, and to the civic organizations and city leaders who supported and shaped the Northland project over the past several years. We look forward to seeing the Northland project and all of its benefits come to fruition.”