Newtonville block may face wrecking ball

A developer is seeking a permit from Newton’s Historical Commission to raze a block of buildings in Newtonville.
A developer is seeking a permit from Newton’s Historical Commission to raze a block of buildings in Newtonville.Bridget Kelly

Plans to raze a block of buildings at Washington and Walnut streets in Newton’s Newtonville section and replace them with a mixed-use development are in their early stages, with specifics expected this fall, according to a spokesman for the developer.

Attorney Stephen J. Buchbinder said his client, Newton resident Robert Korff, a principle at Mark Investment LLC, has an option to purchase the eight buildings, which house several businesses, including the Karoun Restaurant, Boston Ballet School, and Newtonville Camera.

A demolition application was filed with the city’s Historical Commission on Aug. 14, a step that is required because of the age of the buildings, most of which were built in 1900. The commission is scheduled to consider the application at a meeting on Sept. 24.


“We decided to start the clock ticking while our plans are being finalized,” Buchbinder said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

The Historical Commission has the authority to put a 12-month delay on the demolition of buildings more than 50 years old if specific criteria are met. Those include determining whether the buildings are architecturally significant, in good condition, how they fit with the historical significance of the surrounding area, and whether a person of historical significance lived or worked there, among other things.

While the commission has the authority to issue the delay, it cannot prevent the buildings from being demolished after it expires.

Buchbinder said he anticipates that some of the buildings wouldbe eligible for the demolition delay, while the condition of the others may make them unqualified. The Nicolazzo family owns seven of the buildings, and the eighth is owned by J&M Realty Trust, he said.

The development plans are still in the very early stages, he said, but would likely include retail space on the ground floor and housing above the storefronts, with underground residential parking and above-ground parking for customers.


Buchbinder said it is too early in the process to know what will happen to the tenants now in the buildings, and whether they would be able to continue leasing a site in the new development.

Neighborhood meetings will be scheduled for the fall once plans are more complete, he said.

“It is important to note that there is no specific project before the city at this time, but speaking in general terms, it is a good location for development,” said James Freas, acting director of the city’s planning department.

Freas said the site’s proximity to the commuter rail, multiple bus routes, a grocery store, and the village center would make it attractive to residents interested in being able to walk to services, and not having to always rely on a car.

Newtonville residents are already in the midst of a yearlong fight over development of the Austin Street municipal parking lot, just across the Mass. Pike and off Walnut Street from the development envisioned by Korff.

The Austin Street project, which the Board of Aldermen is scheduled to vote on in November, would be similar, with a three- and four-story building featuring shops and a restaurant on the ground level, and 68 apartments on the upper floors, including 17 to be set aside as affordable.

Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@gmail.com.