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Developer pitches affordable housing in Newton’s Nonantum neighborhood

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff/Globe staff

Newton city councilors say they are working with a developer who wants to build hundreds of new rental housing units, with room for retail and commercial uses, on the site of a Nonantum industrial property along the Charles River.

Criterion Development Partners is proposing 204 rental units, including 51 permanently affordable units, plus more than 17,000 square feet of office space and 4,600 square feet for retail use, according to the city. The site is located on about 3.4 acres on Riverdale Avenue, off of California Street.

The proposed mixed-use development would be built under the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing law. The proposal comes after Mark Development’s Robert Korff proposed a 40B development in West Newton late last month.

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Alison Leary, a Ward 1 councilor at large, said she wishes the project had been submitted under the city’s special permit process, which would give local officials more control. But the location is a good one for this type of development, Leary said.

“[The developer] did tell us he wants this to be a collaboration between the neighborhood and his team,” Leary said. “He has been open and communicative with myself and the other ward councilors.”

The proposed mixed-use development would be next to Forte Park and adjacent to the Charles River Greenway, close to local stores, including a Stop & Shop, and is less than a mile from Watertown Square.

Bringing housing to the site and improving access to the river will help make the area more attractive to visit, Leary said.

“It will be great to have more people there,” Leary said.

Historically, the area was used for manufacturing, said Ward 1 Councilor Maria Greenberg, and the new proposal could include room for the Newton Innovation Center, a program designed to encourage local entrepreneurs.

It would also feature improvements to public areas, such as the neighboring park, she said.

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“It would be wonderful [for it] to be a more residential, recreational area,” Greenberg said.

Leary and Greenberg each said they are concerned about the development’s effect on traffic, and are working on ways to encourage public transportation use to reduce the need for cars.

Councilors are also meeting with leaders in Watertown and Waltham to discuss traffic and other issues, Greenberg said. There will also be meetings with neighbors about it.

“There will still be a lot of community involvement, and we’re very happy about that,” Greenberg said.

Traffic is also a concern for Allan Ciccone, who is challenging Greenberg in the Ward 1 councilor race in the fall.

There is already heavy traffic in the neighborhood due to development going on in Newton and Watertown, Ciccone said, and this project would add to the problem.

He said city councilors should work with developers to encourage them to pursue projects through the city’s special permitting process.

“I have nothing against 40B. Everyone deserves a home. But in the Nonantum area, they’re putting everything in there,” Ciccone said. “It’s really getting too dense.”

A representative for Criterion Development Partners could not be reached for comment.


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