Riverside Station development

HalcyonEra

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Sorry I was referring to HalcyonEra in regards to the triple decker comment.

Anyways, back to your points.

1). I'm not sure I follow your Back Bay analogy. BB has always been one of the wealthiest neighborhoods to live in from the time Boston was built. What's different now than in the late 1800's?

2). Swinging for the fences on Assembly Row. Does it have to be those specific chains? Nope. But there are those types of shoppes going in Assembly Row. Overpriced, flashy, overrated outdoor patio decks and lounges. It's the same concept. No concept of community fabric. A massive failure of long-term neighborhood planning.

3). Legacy Place is right on 128. 3rd Ave in Burlington is on 128. They all have high end retail. Catering to a more upscale demographic. And I left out Wakefield and Westwood Station. The only thing that stands out from the rest of the pop-up developments along 128 is that the T station is already there.

I'm not saying that there isn't a market for these types of neighborhoods but in terms of building a neighborhood with character, I'm a bit skittish on the details. I don't live in Newton but if I did, then I'd demand that the project include a neighborhood school. Public or charter would do just fine (though I would prefer a public school).
I am simply not sure what you expect. Every development needs to be profitable but there are so many restrictions placed on developers that their options are severely limited. It was recently reported that Mass has the highest cost of living expense in the country. That expense flows throughout everything that is built. It is incredibly difficult to build anything dense outside of Boston proper. Virtually any proposal over 3 stories is met with the pitchfork and pearl neckless clutchers and the “community activists” who are really there to protect their own interests, nothing more.

Would it be more desirable to build truly economic diverse neighborhoods? Of course. However, while government used to build affordable public housing, that ceased in the 80s. All that is done now is renovation of the existing stock usually through a quasi public-private partnership. The affordable housing component has been pushed onto the developers, and guess what, that cost, which is really a subsidy, is directly passed on to the limited units that are built, and therefore the purchaser of those units, and limiting the demographics that can afford it, both at the housing and retail level.

Would it be great to build eclectic neighborhoods with cool restaurants and shops? Of course. But again public policy makes that virtually impossible. One, you got the ROI for the developers. If you don’t make money you go out of business. I travel a lot and it’s very obvious to me that they reason we only have chain crap around here because of our antiquated and ridiculous limitations on liquor licenses. Chains are the only ones that can afford them. Sure, some communities increase their cap (through state approval of course) but it’s not nearly enough. Individual owned restaurants need to sell booze to make it. And this runs the gamut – case in point, Wegmans paid a small liquor store owner in Natick $1.3M for a full retail license. The windfall is fantastic for the owner of the license, but those costs are ultimately passed to the consumer. And the license holders themselves – stores, bars and existing restaurants are highly protective of those investments and therefore lobby heavily to keep the status quo. As with the small liquor store owner, the license becomes their retirement fund.

So what do end up with? The bro-hoods that you don’t like. At the end of the day though, it's the bro’s can afford it. And the rich foreign kids who come here for school. It’s totally understandable why you don’t like it, but we, as a society, have created this mess through ignorant policy making. In time, things change, neighborhoods evolve. But right out the gate, at this time, these types of developments are really the only thing that can turn a profit.

Sorry for the rant, but again, I am not really sure what exactly you expect.
 

Equilibria

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The latest:

Newton's Riverside Vision Plan | http://www.newtonma.gov/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=96820

This got rushed like hell given the progress of Mark Development's proposal. Hello Washington Street has sketches, massing models, detailed conceptual maps... this one has a checklist of planning principles and pictures of developments in hipster downtown districts. The only things of value here are the emphasis on accessing the river, which Mark Development has ignored to this point and which was the most unanimous concern from the neighborhood at the meeting I went to, and the reference to Station Landing, which I think is a pretty good prediction of where this site is headed.

The result of this will almost certainly be Korff "checking the boxes" in his presentations to the Council and the neighbors dismissing the visioning process and whining as they would have anyway. Complete waste of time and money.

Mark Development's proposal | http://www.newtonma.gov/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=96153

The renders for this are the same as we've been discussing, submitted in September. I like the aesthetics, but the neighbors and City Council should make a concerted push to work in recreational trail access and rightsize a little bit. It's also silly to even talk about Riverside without MassDOT in the discussion, since it only works if you make changes to 128 ramps. It's the same thing up in Waltham with 1265 Main and the other stuff around Route 20/117: developers want changes to the highway and are willing to put in for them, and MassDOT doesn't have the organizational wherewithal to respond or take advantage.

Also Statler: this is a real proposal, not a discussion. Change the name to "Riverside Station Development | 367 Grove Street | Newton"?
 

jklo

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I could see them not wanting to do anything with the river since you would have to get Weston involved.
 

Equilibria

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3D flythrough:

https://vimeo.com/331747161

I appreciate that they've made a couple of renders of improved river parks, but I'm not sure I buy it until they say exactly what they'll improve.

The roundabout on the Lower Falls side now has its first appearance from this development team.
 
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HarvardP

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This is a huge development, it makes the Woodland res complex seem tiny. Other than the new rotary and the Grove Street interchange, Newtonians must be foaming at the mouths...
 

jklo

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Still think they should ditch the office space, especially given how far it is outside of the city even being on the green line.
 

curcuas

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Suspect there's some latent demand for 128-accessible but also core-transit accessible office demand (or developers who believe there is)
 

jklo

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Suspect there's some latent demand for 128-accessible but also core-transit accessible office demand (or developers who believe there is)
When I was last at Riverside Center, there was definitely space available. And that's a pretty nice space. Will say that it's probably at the higher end of pricing for Newton office space tho. But yeah people drive, it's too far out and would be too long even if you lived right on the D line.

Maybe the numbers work even if they only fill half or less of the space or something.
 

Equilibria

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When I was last at Riverside Center, there was definitely space available. And that's a pretty nice space. Will say that it's probably at the higher end of pricing for Newton office space tho. But yeah people drive, it's too far out and would be too long even if you lived right on the D line.

Maybe the numbers work even if they only fill half or less of the space or something.
If there wasn't demand for office space on 128, we wouldn't be seeing developers keep building it in Waltham, Needham, Burlington...
 

jklo

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If there wasn't demand for office space on 128, we wouldn't be seeing developers keep building it in Waltham, Needham, Burlington...
Are they? I believe Hobbs Brook in Waltham has talked about rehabbing some structures but that sounded to me more like trying to make the building a bit more OOFP friendly in an attempt to keep tenants.
 

Equilibria

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Are they? I believe Hobbs Brook in Waltham has talked about rehabbing some structures but that sounded to me more like trying to make the building a bit more OOFP friendly in an attempt to keep tenants.
https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2018/09/21/major-office-development-coming-waltham/IsxCKRt7hCrejJvQENXnTM/story.html

Wouldn't call that a rehab. It's also right down the road from The Post.

There may be other reasons why the Riverside Center has vacancy - leasing rates, contiguity of available space, issues finding subletters if a company moves out before lease end... it's hard to extrapolate from one building.
 

Equilibria

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First meeting before the City Council is tomorrow. Based on the Planning Department memo, should be a doozy:

http://www.newtonma.gov/civicax/filebank/documents/97439

Essentially, the neighborhood and developer submitted warring zoning amendments. Developer wanted to amend the zoning to about 3x the prior square footage and to allow up to 260 feet (which would be the tallest building between Boston and Worcester, I believe, and the tallest on Route 128]. The neighborhood was willing to allow a bit more square footage, but wanted to remove the "TOD" designation for the site (terrible logic: there's minimal bus service and who rides the Green Line, really? Answer: lots of people, according to MBTA ridership statistics, and your own manifesto explicitly mentions pushing for urban rail) and to impose a bunch of requirements to limit office and retail to the benefit of residential.

Essentially, the Planning Department slapped the neighborhood with a wet glove and recommends approving the developer's amendment to the letter, with the vague promise that "the proposal can be refined in the special permit process."

Given that the current zoning was specific to the prior Riverside proposal and took years of negotiation, this new attitude of "whatever Korff wants, Korff gets, because we're desperate to make something happen here" is quite a shift. I don't hate the development and a I want density in Newton, so I'm not that sore about it, but it's going to cause some fireworks (and cost the Mayor a lot of votes).

FWIW, here are Korff's design guidelines, which is a more detailed explanation of drawings we've already seen:

http://www.newtonma.gov/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=97197
 

HarvardP

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The Planning Dept was right to smack them down. From the above .pdf:
"This location—largely isolated from surrounding properties, yet at a nexus of transportation infrastructure—makes the site ideal for the sort of development that will allow the City of Newton to meet its clearly-stated planning goals of smart growth, transit-oriented development, walkability, housing attainability, and increased commercial tax base."
The developer and Newton know the neighbors will protest, but Marty called on the commuter belt to step up on housing and the latter's response thus far...well, this is the only thing interrupting the crickets.
 

mass88

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This project kind of highlights what a wise man once said:

“I tell ya, golf courses and cemeteries are the biggest wastes of prime real estate”
 

stick n move

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They should cover every garage with row houses, hopefully this is the start of a trend.
 

awood91

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I think this plan is phenomenal. It takes every TOD and smart growth planning principal and runs with it to the max. My only concern is hoping that the drawings above are just design placeholders, not the real schemes.
 

Equilibria

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I think this plan is phenomenal. It takes every TOD and smart growth planning principal and runs with it to the max. My only concern is hoping that the drawings above are just design placeholders, not the real schemes.
I don't think they're placeholders by the time you get into design guidelines. I'd have been worried too if this were last fall and they had nothing but a concept.

That said, they haven't drawn anything new in almost a year, now. Site plans and other stuff are fresh, but no new renders in all that time. The architect here is David M. Schwarz, which seems to have a track record with slightly chintzy new urbanist stuff like this, mostly in DC and Texas: https://www.dmsas.com/projects/mixed-use/

I support the development and think that a lot of the concerns are overblown. That said, the neighbors are reasonable in feeling whiplash here - we thought this was settled, it was in purgatory for years, then Korff bought it and is ramming this through the City in less than a year while the Mayor and Planning Department make nice noises about visioning but ultimately have his back. It feels like the fix is in because it is, however much you want the density and housing.

Newton is going through a lengthy process to vision and rezone transit-adjacent parts of the city for multistory, multifamily as-of-right development, so I wouldn't say the City or the community as a whole are being obstructionist (though there are of course loud voices of opposition). Compared to the methodical processes on Washington Street and Needham Street this is very, very rushed and much bigger than people were ready for. Not that height is everything, but 260' in the Boston suburbs is unprecedented outside of Assembly (and soon Union Square).
 

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