Chamber News

April 11, 2016 Likes Comments

What last night's Austin Street vote means for Newtonville and Newton

Last night, Newton's Board of Aldermen approved the proposed mixed use project at 28 Austin Street.

The Newton-Needham Chamber enthusiastically supported this project because we believe it will bring needed economic vitality to Newtonville and Newton, provide a home for a new innovation center and provide 68 rental units of much-needed workforce and senior housing, with one-out-of-every three units classified as affordable as defined by state law.

This project was supported by a broad coalition of environment, housing and smart growth advocates. We're grateful to Mayor Warren, all of our aldermen and city staff for the thought and hours that went into shaping this vision.

We're also grateful for the project's opponents -- including some chamber members -- who expressed legitimate concerns about the proposal, which, in the end, resulted in a much improved project than we would have had otherwise.

This long process, while divisive at times, demonstrated the benefits of an open public debate. It's easy to be cynical about the snail's pace of government. But the countless hours of public meetings and deliberations sparked a vital conversation about our city's changing demographics, housing and transportation needs and economic vitality.

Tuesday's 17-6 vote was only the start of this process. We share the concerns expressed by many Newtonville businesses who are appropriately worried about lost business, especially during construction slated to begin in 2017.

We appreciate that the developer, Austin Street Partners, has committed $475,000 to benefit Newtonville and its businesses during construction, including underwriting a shuttle bus, a $150,000 business loss support fund, a $50,000 Shop Newtonville promotional campaign and an additional $50,000 contingency fund. In addition up to $20,000 in any unspent contingency would underwrite cultural events to be held in the project's new plaza.

The Newton-Needham Chamber pledges to be there for Newtonville's businesses throughout this process. We intend to make sure the city and developer stick to their commitments to our businesses. And we intend to create our own Shop Local, Dine Local and Bank Local campaign and programming throughout the construction.

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