Chamber News

Needham / Newton
February 04, 2021 Likes Comments

Two reasons why the Tripadvisor news is significant

Yesterday’s opening of a vaccine clinic at Tripadvisor in Needham, wasn’t merely significant because it offers another option for residents and workers in our area.

It’s also noteworthy because Tripadvisor is the first large private sector company to turn over its corporate headquarters rent-free in the race to vaccinate our state.
Newton-Wellesley Hospital will manage the vaccine program seven days a week. They aim to initially vaccinate 630 patients per day, depending on supply, with plans to expand access as appropriate. Only Newton-Wellesley Hospital and Mass General Brigham patients are eligible. Appointments are required.

“We’re glad to do our part to help our local community recover from COVID-19, and encourage others in the private sector to explore how they might use their resources to speed the vaccination process so we can all move beyond this pandemic,” said Steve Kaufer, CEO and co-founder of Tripadvisor.
The idea of using the currently vacant headquarters came up earlier this month when David Kern, VP of global procurement at Tripadvisor, reached out to the chamber saying they wanted to offer their facility for a clinic.
At about the same time, Dr. Errol R. Norwitz, president of Newton-Wellesley Hospital told us the hospital was looking for a location for the same purpose and we did what chambers do: We connected the two businesses.
Officials at Needham Town Hall, the Needham Select Board and Board of Health, had to spring into action too -- making sure the proper permits and safety protocols were in place.
Credit the Tripadvisor team for wanting to step up for the greater good in a crisis (at a time when their own business has suffered substantially) and to the town for making it happen quickly. And, of course, we’re all grateful to Newton Wellesley and to medical and frontline workers everywhere for all they’ve done for our communities during this hellish year.
West Newton Armory to become affordable housing
Newton will be purchasing the West Newton Armory on Washington Street from the state for $1 and converting it into 100 percent permanently affordable housing.
A housing consultant hired by the city found three viable hypothetical scenarios for redeveloping the property (located next to Trader Joe’s) that were financially feasible, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller wrote in her Newton Tab column.
Two of the scenarios envision preserving the front section of the armory while replacing the rear drill shed with a new structure connected to the historic front façade. The third scenario envisions removing the existing building entirely and building an entirely new building.
The financial analyses show that any of these three scenarios can be built utilizing a combination of federal, state and local funding sources.
“I am so pleased that much needed affordable housing is closer to becoming a reality,” Fuller wrote.
Ford has a better idea, see thru masks
The Ford Motor Co. has designed and created a clear N95 face masks so that hearing impaired people can read lips while protecting themselves from COVID-19.
The design is transparent, low-cost and reusable, allowing for the “full range of human expression” currently blocked by conventional cloth or filtered masks. It will likely also be a safe option for those wishing to show more expression in their jobs, like teachers or sales people, notes the The Detroit Free Press .
Federal approval is pending.
Home testing kits get approval

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has reached a deal with Ellume USA, an Australian company, to produce at-home, over-the-counter COVID tests.

Ellume’s nasal swab test is expected to cost around $30 and requires a smartphone and is the only approved test so far that does not need a prescription, Wall Street Journal reports.
The test is authorized to be used by people both with and without symptoms and can be used on children as young as two years old. Home tests are expected to be less precise than those done in a lab. The product is not in stores yet.
Needham's outdoor dining tent returning

Needham’s popular outdoor dining tent will return this April.
The decision to bring the tent back follows widespread support from the public and nearby restaurants who said the town’s decision to create a safe, pleasant, outdoor space lifted spirits and boosted sales.

Other municipalities could benefit from Needham’s recognition that it’s not enough to just toss some picnic tables into a parking lot. It requires advance planning, resources and a willingness to cut through red tape.
Vetoed transportation items may get a second life
After several disappointing vetoes by Gov. Charlie Baker from the transportation bond bill, it's encouraging to hear one key lawmaker hint that the Legislature may try again.
Transportation Committee Co-chair Sen. Joseph Boncore, told Chris Lisinski at State House News that he believes vetoed items that already cleared both branches are "ready" to resurface without significant delay.
That includes two initiatives our chamber enthusiastically supported: A proposal to increase fees on ride share companies like Uber and Lyft; and the creation of a commission to explore the use of tolls to manage congestion and also be more equitable.
"I'm hoping that in the short term, we can take action on those items quickly," Boncore said.
Baker justified many of his vetoes saying that many of the bill's original assumptions "have changed dramatically" after the pandemic shifted travel patterns.
Because lawmakers dawdled until the final hours of the legislative year before approving the bill, they forfeited their right to override any vetoes and must now start over.
Need to knows
  • Anyone in need of health insurance has until March 23 to get coverage through the Massachusetts Health Connector's open enrollment period. The two-month extension aims to give people, particularly those harmed economically by the pandemic, extra time to secure coverage.
  • If you’re a Wellesley merchant please take a couple minutes to complete this survey from the Wellesley Merchants Association.
Meters (not rates) to be lowered in Watertown
Watertown officials have promised to lower the parking meters (as opposed to lowering parking rates) after a local resident pointed out some of the newly-installed meters were unreachable.

Five-foot-two inch resident Kat Powers’ Facebook post caught the attention of WBZ-TV which measured some meters at 5 feet 6 inches.
Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon told Channel 4 that the meters would all be lowered to 48 inches over the next couple months, with the tallest meters coming down to earth first.

Meet our newest besties!

During this pandemic, we've lost member businesses to closures or an inability to pay. But we gained some as well.
Chamber membership underwrites our programing, events, advocacy and even this newsletter. If you aren’t a chamber member and are in a position to become one, we hope you will join today.
Please join me in welcoming 20 new and returning businesses and nonprofits that joined (or are returning after an absence) our chamber in January.
Dine out. Take out. Shop locally. And join the chamber! Be back tomorrow.

President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.


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