Newton retail strip might get a major makeover
Northland Investment Corp. is unveiling an ambitious plan on Wednesday to remake its properties along Newton’s Needham Street by razing and replacing many of its retail shops there — including the Marshalls plaza and the popular T.J. Maxx store across the street — and adding hundreds of new apartments.
In all, the new development would probably exceed 1 million square feet on 27 acres, with rebuilt structures on both sides of the busy thoroughfare. The Newton firm will tear down the two retail properties, as well as industrial buildings behind them, while keeping the historic mill complex at the corner of Oak and Needham streets.
Northland senior vice president Peter Standish said plans are still in preliminary stages, but the current goal is to build 950 apartments and about 200,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, essentially doubling the amount of retail space there now. In many cases, the apartments would be built above the shops, and many of them would be positioned on a new “Main Street”-style road that would run perpendicular to Needham Street, extending toward the Upper Falls Greenway.
“We really want to bring together complementary uses that will create a real synergy and a vibrancy, to create a real 18-hour environment,” Standish said. “It’s a unique opportunity.”
The mill complex would be renovated but would continue to be used for offices. Shoe company Clarks Americas had occupied the bulk of the 175,000 square feet there before relocating to a new building in Waltham this fall.
Standish said his company will probably submit formal plans to the city in early 2017. While Northland owns the properties, the project will need the City Council’s approval, among other local permits.
Mayor Setti Warren is already signaling his support. This project, he said, fits in with his goals to promote the commercial areas at the Newton-Needham boundary as an innovation district because it adds more rental housing, providing a new place for many of the tech companies’ workers to live.
Warren noted that the project coincides with significant road improvements planned for that area in the next few years, and that it would be built with a “village-like” concept in mind.
Warren said Northland’s proposal could be the biggest development in the city “in a generation” and is certainly the largest since he took office nearly seven years ago. There are no plans to offer local tax breaks for the project, he said.
“We have not seen anything of this size that could have such positive impacts,” Warren said. “This has the possibility of being a real game changer if done the right way.”
Some of the displaced retail tenants could stick around. The T.J. Maxx, for example, is expected to relocate up Needham Street to anchor a new shopping center that Crosspoint Associates is building at the former TripAdvisor headquarters site.