On Thursday, November 17, the Ward 4 Aldermen docketed a request to establish a new zoning district for development at the Riverside MBTA station on Grove Street.
This new docket item describes a zone that would allow, by special permit, a development with a single commercial office building not to exceed 225,000 square feet with a maximum height of 9 stories, two residential buildings not to exceed 290 housings units in total, retail space not to exceed 20,000 square feet, along with a multi-use community center.
This is an important milestone in a process which began in 2007 with the Lower Falls Improvement Association (LFIA), Lasell Neighborhood Association (LNA), and Auburndale Community Association (ACA) working constructively with the MBTA to provide materials included with the bid package given to developers interested in the Riverside project. In early 2010, the Riverside Station Neighborhood Coalition was formed by the LFIA, LNA, and ACA to advocate for the local residents.
In 2009, BH Normandy proposed over 1.6 million square feet of development- and little or no information on traffic, school, and other impacts. Subsequent proposals included the expansion of a large section of Grove St. to four lanes to accommodate all the extra cars on the road!
Throughout this process, the level of community involvement in this project has been very high- not NIMBY activists, but people genuinely concerned with the impacts generated by over 1.5 million square feet of development. Each of our four community meetings with the developer have attracted close to 200 well-informed residents.
The developer’s willingness to accept the reduced density reflected in the zoning request is the result of ongoing negotiations which aldermen Lenny Gentile, Amy Sangiolo & Jay Harney- working on behalf of the City- and the Riverside Station Neighborhood Coalition (RSNC)- working on behalf of the local residents- have been conducting with BH Normandy. Our goal has been to get to the right proposal for a smart, mixed-use development at Riverside which will benefit all.
Though much work still remains, BH Normandy has listened to the neighborhoods and the City. We expect a new proposal from the developer which would reduce the office space from 364,000 square feet to 225,000 square feet and reduce the number of new office buildings from two to one. We expect the residential portion of this proposal to be similar to that proposed by the developer last June and would include 290 residential units. We anticipate the distribution of 1, 2, and 3 bedroom units will also be similar.
The reduced density of the project will lessen the projected traffic impacts somewhat, particularly during afternoon and morning rush hours. Roadway modifications would likely still include the two, single lane roundabouts on Grove Street.
Traffic mitigation at areas away from the immediate site has not been addressed. No solution has been offered to address the failing I-95 collector road, though any plans here would need to be long-term.
The storm and wastewater mitigation plans appear to be in generally good shape. We anticipate that they should soon be ready for the City to conduct a formal peer review. The peer review is a process wherein the City hires an independent consultant (with funds provided by the developer) to analyze the plans and ensure that they will meet the City’s requirements. The City of Newton will require, at a minimum, the removal of 4 gallons of wastewater for every 1 gallon created. The City has the option of increasing these values and in the past has required up to 8 gallons removed for every gallon created.
We have yet to receive a report on what the potential impact to our school system might be from the 290 apartments, or any proposals to help deal with that impact.
Clearly, much work still remains.
But it appears that we are on-track to create a good, mixed-use development that will work for the neighborhoods, the city, and the developer.
Riverside Station Neighborhood Coalition Steering Committee
The Riverside Station Neighborhood Coalition was formed in 2010 by the Lower Falls Improvement Association, Lasell Neighborhood Association, and Auburndale Community Association to advocate for the residents of the areas most affected by the proposed 22 acre development of the Riverside MBTA Station on Grove Street in Auburndale. More information on the project is here.