Developer proposes big mixed-use development at Riverside in Newton
NEWTON — Developers are considering mixed-use residential, office, and retail proposal for the Riverside MBTA station that, if built, would add hundreds of new homes and a pair of new towers along Route 128.
The proposed development — which would also replace the neighboring Hotel Indigo — would include eight residential buildings, two office buildings, and one combination hotel and condominium building, according to Mark Development, which is working with Normandy Real Estate Partners on the project.
It would also include new highway access off Route 128 (Interstate 95) that developers said would lead traffic directly into the Riverside development, plus incorporate safety improvements, including new signals and bicycle lanes.
“Riverside represents a really excellent opportunity for thoughtful transit-oriented development that meets a number of Newton’s needs: housing, office space, [and] tax revenue,” Robert Korff, Mark Development’s chief executive, said in a statement on Monday.
Korff unveiled details of the proposal to an audience of about 200 who gathered at Newton North High School on Sept. 27. Developers will file for a special permit for the proposal later this year or early in 2019, a spokesperson said.
Residents who attended the meeting offered a mixed response: Some praised the project for adding badly needed affordable housing to Newton, while others worried that a dense development would increase traffic and put greater strain on the city’s school system.
Resident Peter Harrington told developers during the meeting that the project is “out of character” for the area.
“I believe there are a large number of people in the city of Newton who are opposed to this project,” Harrington said. “They don’t feel that it fits in the city.”
Leslie Miller of Newtonville said the project will help bring more affordable housing to Newton, which will help younger residents find a home here.
“I thought this was a very attractive project that would draw people from all sides of Newton and other towns,” Miller said. “It’s a destination-driven project, it’s going to be wonderful.”
The Riverside development would include 663 residential units with a minimum of 100 affordable units, developers said. Most of the residential units would be rentals.
Two towers would be visible along the highway, according to the proposal. One would be a 14-story, 420,000-square-foot office tower, and the other would be an 18-story, 200,000-square-foot building that would include a 200-room hotel and condos.
Each tower would be 210 feet tall due to the differences in ceiling height in the two buildings, developers said.
There would also be about 67,000 square feet of retail space in the development.
The project would feature two main garages — one with 1,900 spaces and another with 615 spaces. Another 385 spaces would be available in underground garages. It would also have about 120 surface parking spots.
The existing Riverside parking lot has 965 spaces.
In his Monday statement, Korff said the development also includes an option for direct access to the site from Recreation Road, better connectivity with the Charles River, and site improvements.
All aspects of the project will be privately funded and require no state or federal dollars, he said.
This is the second attempt by Normandy to redevelop Riverside; in 2013, it secured approval for a development, but it later stalled. Normandy partnered with Mark Development — which has been working along the city’s Washington Street corridor — on a new concept for Riverside.
The new proposal is more than double the size of the 600,000-square-foot development previously sought by Normandy. Korff said the project had to be larger to fund site improvements.
“We recognize that this may cause some questions from adjacent neighborhoods and [we] look forward to sharing more details on how the site design, traffic planning, and other aspects of the proposal limit the impacts,” Korff said in his statement.
Developers are now discussing the newer project with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the agency continues to have discussions about potential uses of “real estate in the vicinity” of the station.
“While we have not yet finalized an agreement, we continue to have constructive conversations,” Pesaturo said in an e-mail.
Because the project calls for new highway access, state transportation officials have been meeting with development planners.
Patrick Marvin, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said in an e-mail that “MassDOT will continue to collaborate with stakeholders in the event that the potential development plans move ahead and require adjustments to transportation infrastructure.”
During the Sept. 27 meeting developers held with residents, several criticized the development for being too large. One woman told developers that the existing neighborhood is “basically a utopia.”
Another resident, Cyrisse Jaffee, who lives in Lower Falls, said the proposed Riverside development “will seriously alter” the neighborhood.
As proposed, the development is large enough to be like a new village foisted onto the existing villages of Auburndale and Lower Falls, she said.
“The idea that we somehow need this huge development to make our city more attractive or more exciting is, to me, nonsensical,” she said.
Fern Hammer, who lives on the south side of Newton, said she is “100 percent” for the Riverside development.
Hammer is a real estate agent, and said people on the lookout for housing want newer construction and easy access to transit.
“I love that you have the public transportation right there, I love that you can walk out and you can see people and it’s alive,” Hammer said. “You want to feel like you’re in a community.”