NEWTON -- Governor Charlie Baker hand-delivered Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller a MassWorks grant for $396,500 at a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 20, to fund improvements to Pettee Square and expand the Upper Falls Greenway, located next to the controversial Northland development.
The MassWorks Infrastructure Program provides funding to municipalities for public infrastructure projects. Since its reauthorization in 2015, the program has awarded about $500 million in grants. According to Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, MassWorks has received 92 applications and awarded 36 grants for 2019 funding.
Outside the Chestnut Street building behind the site of the proposed Northland Development where the press conference was being held, a group of supporters and critics gathered with their signs “Vote ‘Yes’ for Newton’s Future” and “Vote ‘No’ on oversized development in Newton.” Inside the press conference Mayor Fuller and Governor Baker were joined by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Kennealy.
Fuller shared her thoughts on the Northland Project.
“Northland is located in Newton, in the corner right here. They brought forward a project and, oh gosh, did they have to negotiate with our city councilors. It downsized. It right sized, and they listened and listened and listened to the neighbors here,” Fuller said.
Baker shared his support for Massachusetts communities like Newton that are hosting big developments that are projected to increase housing and increase job opportunities.
“We find ourselves in a community in Massachusetts, where people come together to try to take a glorious old building with a fabulous history that hasn't been occupied in many cases in a serious way for decades, and re-imagining what it can be, and the MassWorks program ends up being a big part of how we help communities make these projects happen,” Baker said, referring to the historic mill building that is part of the Northland project.
The Northland development isn’t receiving any MassWorks grant money, but the Upper Falls Greenway runs directly behind the proposed mixed-use Northland complex. Governor Baker expressed his support for the Northland project saying it is the type of project his administration likes to be a part of.
“The $400,000 that we’re putting into the Greenway project and Pettee Square is exactly the sort of thing that we like to do as a complement -- or the ancillary opportunity -- to enhance a significant development project,” Baker said.
City Council President Susan Albright said Governor Baker’s remarks confirmed that the state “awarded the grant based on the confluence of job development and housing development” created from the Northland development.
Upper Falls resident Jerry Reilly expressed his gratitude to the governor and mayor for working together to help expand the greenway.
“In our neighborhood, [the greenway] has been a huge thing. Over the years since it was built, it has become our fitness center, our dog park; it’s our social club and our art gallery.”
Reilly has worked with his neighbors and the city to support the expansion of the greenway to Route 9 for five years. When asked about how this finally came to fruition Reilly agreed with Albright, saying that while the Upper Falls Greenway development does stand on its own, the reason why it’s happening now is because of the Northland development.
“The two things it’s done that I love; it’s got people walking and talking. Two things that are really near and dear to my heart,” Reilly said.
Sydney Hager can be reached at email@example.com.