Originally proposed at 1.5 million square feet, the Newton City Council unanimously approved a compromise zoning proposal on Nov. 18 that trimmed the project by almost one-third to 1.025 square feet.
Chamber President Greg Reibman described the Riverside compromise as “bittersweet.”
“There’s still a lot to love about this project and it’s great to see it moving forward but it’s discouraging that it’s been scaled back so significantly,” Reibman said. “Riverside Station is simply the best location for a smart growth, mixed-use development anywhere along I-95 this side of Quincy."
“It should have been bigger and bolder.”
The project by Mark Development and Normandy Real Estate Partners is now zoned to accommodate approximately 600 housing units (down from the original 675), 17.5 percent of which would be affordable -- bringing the percentage of residential use in the development to 65 percent from an originally proposed 50-50 split of housing and commercial/retail space.
Retail square footage was reduced from 64,655 to approximately 44,000 square feet and 562,000 square feet of office was trimmed to 250,000 square feet.
Also slashed was the size of a planned hotel to replace Hotel Indigo from 194 to 150 room keys.
Heights of the buildings were shortened from 18 stories at the tallest building to 11 stories.A greater setback is provided for the buildings fronting Grove Street. And parking was reduced and consolidated (from 2,922 to 2,039) into two buildings at the center of the site.
The reductions came on the heels of vocal opposition from the advocacy group Right Size Newton, followed by months of negotiations between the Lower Falls Neighborhood Association and City Councilor Lenny Gentile, with the developer.
“It’s terrific that we’re adding desperately-needed housing, including affordable housing” Reibman said, “but it’s disappointing that were losing nearly 50 hotel rooms, more than 300,000 square feet of office space and over 20,000 square feet of retail – and all the tax revenue that would have come with it -- at a location that could have accommodated it.”
The Riverside project will now go before the City Council special permit process in early 2020, where it may still face additional pressure to be reduced further from some residents.