fb-pixel Skip to main content

Newton and the Northland project: point-counterpoint

The site of the proposed Northland development project in Newton.
The site of the proposed Northland development project in Newton.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Northland’s foes stand in the way of a thoughtful design plan

The Globe editorial “Let towns solve the Mass. housing shortage” (Feb. 18) speaks directly to our current, controversial Newton housing story.

The Northland project, previously approved by the Newton City Council by a 17-7 vote, offers a thoughtful green residential and retail design, including 800 apartments, 140 of which are designated permanently affordable. Yet a group of residents wants to overturn the affirmative City Council vote with a referendum on a project that has been years in the planning and includes everything from mitigating traffic to creating numerous parks. The project even keeps the architectural gem of the Piano Mill building, to be renovated into commercial space.


If a local Newton referendum proceeds with a “no” vote on March 3, the result may be less to the liking of opponents. The site comprises three parcels. The developer, by law, may build more than 600 units on each under the state statute Chapter 40B, without any of the green and design amenities that the Newton City Council has arranged with the developer. I see no reason why the developer wouldn’t take the 40B option if Northland is rejected.

I’ve become convinced that Northland should go forward, given our housing shortage, and I will vote yes.

Nathan Aronow


Opponent of proposed development has environmental concerns

Newton Upper Falls has always been the affordable neighborhood in Newton. For generations it was the home of mill owners and mill workers. The mills manufactured textiles and made machines that made textiles, and made dyes for the textiles. The South Meadow Brook flowed into the mill pond and through the mills to the Charles River, taking with it — and leaving behind — poisons generated by textile manufacturing.

The environmental report on the Northland project (“Newton referendum could have broader implications,” Chesto Means Business, Feb. 17) speaks of open and green spaces among the proposed buildings, but gives no information about what’s in the ground under the site. Opponents of the project are concerned about its massive size and the traffic it would generate on Needham Street and on our narrow historic streets. I share these concerns but am also concerned about what’s underground.


Village Falls, also on the corner of Needham and Oak streets, is an example of a project where the builder respected and responded to input about height, building materials, and soil safety. Northland and, unfortunately, our elected representatives have shown no interest in scaling back this project in response to the genuine concerns of Newton Upper Falls and Charlemont Street residents.

Judy Malone Neville

Newton Upper Falls

Change is never easy, but it’s crucial — for Newton and for us all

I want to thank the Globe for its comprehensive editorial in favor of the Newton Northland project (“With a ‘yes’ vote on March 3, Newton can pave the way to fairer future,” Feb. 24), which systematically addressed the compelling reasons for the residents of the city to vote yes in the upcoming referendum. As a Newton resident and homeowner, I wholeheartedly agree that we can no longer treat our city as an island, leaving solutions to our most pressing problems — climate change, lack of housing, transportation, affordability — to other communities. We don’t need 800 new housing units in Newton — we need 8,000, or more.

No one likes change, it’s never easy, and it’s always easier to say no than yes. But I not only want my descendants to be able to live in Newton; I want them to be able to live — period — and that means we need to change.


The City Council deserves praise for the painstaking process that resulted in its approval of the Northland project. We should not, and cannot, let fear of change undermine our city’s future.

Bryan Decker


This section of the city can’t support a project of this size

Your Feb. 24 editorial about the proposed Northland development in Newton makes it sound like this is all about affordable housing. It’s not. It’s about size. The lovely illustration accompanying your editorial leaves out the proposed eight-story building that’s key to the plan; the assumed 138 new students pouring into Newton schools may not have the courtesy to divide themselves evenly among grades, which could cause costly adjustments at one or more schools; and the hundreds of new residents, with their corresponding cars, may not choose to leave those cars at home.

The current infrastructure and public transportation in that area (both lacking) cannot support a development of this size. If they build it, will the money come to transform this part of the city to accommodate it? I don’t think so.

But if they leave it green, scale it way back in size, and even double the number of affordable units, I’m all in. Until then, I’m voting no.

Lisa Rucinski