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Developer proposes Opus Newton, a 174-apartment senior community near Needham line

Opus Newton is a proposed senior apartment building on Winchester Street in Newton.
Opus Newton is a proposed senior apartment building on Winchester Street in Newton.2Life Communities

A Brighton-based senior housing developer is proposing a 174-unit apartment complex connected to the existing Coleman House development at the corner of Nahanton and Winchester streets near the Needham line.

2Life Communities’ proposed Opus Newton would consist of a eight-story congregate living facility, including six residential stories and a two-level parking garage, along with surface parking, walking paths, and green spaces on a roughly 6-acre site, according to project filings with the city.

The apartments — from one-bedroom, one-bath units to those with two bedrooms, two baths, and a den — would range in size from 650 to 1,350 square feet, according to the proposal.

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“The [Opus] community is designed for people who do not qualify for subsidized housing but are not comfortable with upscale options currently on the market,” it said.

The development also would include a connector building that would physically tie the new structure to 2Life’s Coleman House, an existing complex that has 146 apartments for senior residents. The connector would serve as a community center, and feature spaces for functions like dining, classes, fitness, arts, and community events.

“We know for a fact — from our own experience and tons of data — aging in community is superior in terms of quality of life [compared] to living alone,” Amy Schectman, 2Life Communities’ president and CEO, said in a phone interview.

2Life is seeking a special permit from the City Council to move forward with the Opus Newton project, according to Lizbeth Heyer, 2Life’s chief of real estate and innovation. Developers hope to secure permission in the fall, and hope to begin construction in early 2024.

2Life Communities owns about 1,320 apartments that house more than 1,500 residents in Greater Boston, according to the company, with four buildings in Brighton and one location each in Framingham and Brookline. In Newton, the company owns the Coleman House as well as the Golda Meir House, 199 apartments for residents ages 62 and older on Stanton Avenue in Auburndale.

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Most of the company’s housing is subsidized, according to the developer, including at Golda Meir and the Coleman House in Newton. Opus would be tied to Coleman, which is now home to 146 apartments for seniors with incomes at or below 50 percent of the area median income in Newton. For a two-person household, that area median income is $95,200, according to the city.

The company said in a statement it is not defining any percent of AMI for Opus: “The community is designed for people who do not qualify for subsidized housing but are not comfortable with upscale options currently on the market.”

Nine of the 174 apartments would be reserved for people earning up to 80 percent of the area median income to meet the requirements of the city’s inclusionary zoning bylaw, according to the proposal.

Residents of the building would pay a monthly rent, as well as a one-time payment that 2Life refers to as a “community share,” Heyer said. That payment is partially refundable if people move out, Heyer said.

2Life will obtain financing to construct the building and a portion of the community shares will be used to pay back that loan, the company said.

A required monthly fee would cover utilities, culinary credit, programs, classes, and events, and includes the help of a “care-navigator,” the company said.

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“Actual healthcare costs would be paid for by the residents on an as-needed basis with Opus providing economies of scale and lower pricing through partnerships,” the company said.

The costs of the community share, monthly rents, and other expenses are still being determined, Heyer said, but are intended to be in reach of the development’s target demographic. Residents in the nine affordable units would not have to pay the community share, the company said.

In order to build the project, 2Life is proposing to create a parcel using land it owns on Winchester Street with abutting undeveloped property to the south owned by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston.

The JCC property, which consists of about 28 acres and is home to the existing Leventhal Sidman Jewish Community Center, wraps around 2Life’s Coleman House property.

2Life’s proposal calls for the bulk of the Opus development on the undeveloped JCC property south of the Coleman House. The two organizations have entered into an agreement for the project.

Jenna Stein, a JCC spokeswoman, said in an e-mail: “JCC Greater Boston and 2Life Communities have been great partners on this campus since 1983 and we are very excited by the new OPUS concept and the opportunity for our relationship to expand and grow.”

The company already has held about two dozen community meetings over its proposal, according to Heyer, and met May 12 with the city’s Urban Design Committee. An early interest list for the project already has 800 people, Heyer said.

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The project would have almost no impact on traffic during commuting hours, she said, and the building is designed to minimize its visual impact.

“We are a trusted and known institution in the community, and we have a good reputation,” Heyer said. “I think we really experienced peoples’ trust when we went out and met with them.”

A public hearing on the proposed development will be held June 29 by the City Council’s Land Use Committee, according to Richard Lipof, a councilor-at-large from Newton’s Ward 8.

Lipof, whose ward includes the project site and serves as the committee’s chairman, said in a phone statement the location next to Coleman House is the perfect location for a development like Opus.

“From hearing preliminary plans, it seems very exciting,” Lipof said. “It is still evolving, but the unique, groundbreaking economic structure to this more affordable opportunity for [senior] housing is fascinating, and I look forward to learning more about it.”


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.