Chamber News

July 09, 2020 Likes Comments

Three good things to report

We start today with good news about three projects that have just been given the green light.

West Newton 40B approved
 
A dilapidated block in West Newton is getting a major upgrade.
Mark Development’s Dunstan East project was approved last night 4-1 by Newton’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
 
The three-acre mixed use project is located on Washington Street just outside of West Newton Square. It stretches back to Cheese Cake Brook and includes the buildings where The Barn Family Shoe Barn is located. (The Barn is moving down the street to a great new location at Trio).
 
It will provide 234 desperately-needed apartments (59 permanently affordable), 8,500 square feet of ground floor commercial and retail space and 290-underground parking spaces.
 
Mark Development has agreed to $3.4 million of community benefits, including a major clean up and other improvements (including a boardwalk) to Cheese Cake Brook, an affordability subsidy, energy efficiency enhancements, bus shelters and other transportation improvements plus a sewer upgrade.
 
Watertown’s life sciences boom keeps booming
 
In Watertown, officials just signed off on 215,000-square-foot lab-ready property by Westbrook Partners for at 85 Walnut St., Catherine Carlock at the BBJ reports.
 
The company is developing the core and shell building to prepare for life science tenants, adding to the growing number of large-scale lab-focused projects in Watertown.
 
Earlier this week Alexandria Real Estate Equities and Newton’s National Development announced the purchase of the 6.3 acres Mount Auburn Club to also become a life sciences and office complex for $33 million.
 
Life science companies have moved into the renovated U.S. Army Arsenal buildings at Arsenal Yards, as well as, into the former Verizon facility off Arsenal Street, now called LINX. Life science offices and labs also appear to the future for the recently sold Tufts Health Plan building on Mt. Auburn Street, according to Watertown News.
Developers of the former Colonial GMC Buick dealership on Galen Street said they plan to build life science space there, the News also reported.
SGA, which also designed Arsenal Yards and LINX designed the four-story biotech-ready facility on Walnut Street.
 
Improvements to Comm. Ave. too
 
That not-so-bike and pedestrian friendly stretch of Commonwealth Ave. from the Marriott Hotel to Lyons Field in Auburndale is getting an upgrade, thanks to a $5.9 million commitment from MassDOT.
 
The project (No. 610674 here) creates more green space and introduces a walking and bike path by rerouting vehicular traffic from north of the median to the south side of the road, Mayor Fuller announced last night.
 
The project connects with Weston’s planned shared use path on the other side of the Charles River Bridge, running along Commonwealth Avenue from the Newton to Natick borders. It also increases visibility and access to the Charles River at the historic boathouse while safety is improved for pedestrians and bicyclists.
 
Lenders scarce for Fed’s Main Street lending program
 
Only seven banks in Massachusetts are participating in the Fed’s Main Street Lending Program, according to the list of lenders released yesterday by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
 
The problem is not limited to the Bay State, the New York Times reports. Only about 90 banks nationwide have agreed to publicly say they are willing to lend to new customers and were listed. California only has seven too. There’s nine in New York.
 
The Fed says additional lenders are expected to be added.
 
Main Street will serve companies with 15,000 or fewer employees and annual revenue of $5 billion or less are eligible for the program. (The Paycheck Protection Program is restricted to firms with 500 or fewer workers. Unlike PPP, Main Street does not include a forgiveness feature.) Loans must be paid back over four years. Principal and interest payments are deferred for a year.
 
Main Street loans are made through banks. The Fed then buys 95 percent of each loan from the bank.
 
Will pro sports help restaurants?
 
If all goes well, the Red Sox begin their COVID-reduced 2020 season on July 24, with the Celtics and Bruins returning about one week later.
 
While there won’t be any fans in the stands, some restaurateurs hope sports return to TV will help fill their seats.
 
"I would hope that sports on TV helps draw folks back inside our restaurants, as many are choosing to dine outside today. Obviously, we are still and will still be constricted without seating directly at the bar, but in many establishments you can see TVs from across the dining room," Bob Luz of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association told State House News.
 
Restaurants have been allowed to offer indoor service since June 8 under strict social distancing guidelines. But many operators say indoor business has been sluggish with many diners seemingly not comfortable sitting inside.
 
Gov. Charlie Baker says bars won’t reopen until there’s either a COVID vaccine or therapeutics.
 
"Sports and our local teams were great enhancers of the dining experience, and I do believe it will be a great atmosphere addition that helps make it more comfortable to get back to life the way we loved it pre-COVID. Most importantly, restaurants offer that experience safely!!" Luz said.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
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