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Unusual arts performance spaces in Newton

2015 January 30
by Jerry Reilly

GregoriansThe Boston Globe ran a story today about a new web site called that aims to connect arts groups with unconventional performance spaces.  Prominently featured in the story is Newton’s own Gregorian Rugs in Lower Falls.

We recently created the Newton Nomadic Theater and Gregorian Rugs has been one of our biggest sponsors and enthusiastic hosts for our events.   We just held our 2nd Nomad Story Slam there this past week and our upcoming play “Turn of the Screw” will be opening for two nights at Gregorians on Feb 12, 13. read more…

If not 40B, then what?

2015 January 29
by Jerry Reilly

I was at a meeting at the library tonight.  It was largely about something called CDBG funding.  It’s roughly $1.5 million a year that the federal government has been giving to Newton as a block grant.  The city can choose to spend it in a wide variety of ways.  Historically they have been spending roughly 55% of that on housing issues.   Among the housing needs/programs it goes towards – first time mortgages, housing for chronically homeless, general low income home creation, low income home improvement funding ….

When I saw that list and realized that they were talking read more…

Austin Street in 3-D (II)

2015 January 29
by Bruce Henderson

I prepared the Google Sketchup 3D model of the Austin Street project that Julia introduced in an early post. I did so because I shared concerns expressed by Jerry Reilly and Marti about the difficulty of visualizing the impact of the proposed project without a 3D model.

I took building footprints from the proposal and the assessor’s online maps. For the height of the proposed building, I used 54 feet — the height mentioned by the developers in their recent TAB op-ed. I estimated the heights of existing buildings using Google Streetview.

I’ve updated the model a few times in response to some of the points raised in the earlier thread, but I have to say that I’m not up to adding in buildings on the other side of the Pike or trees and landscaping. Here are three views from the latest version.

Looking northwest:


Looking northeast:


Looking west:


[Update: for the adventuresome, try this link -Adam]

If anyone wants to look at the model and mess around with it, you can download it here and run it in the free, non-commercial-use-only version of Google Sketchup.

Pedestrian crossing sign, 311 system, and citizen frustration

2015 January 28
by Jerry Reilly

A site called (“Interesting news by cool dudes”) posted a story yesterday with the headline “Newton’s 311 System Is In Shambles” by Cyrus Vanatrov.   It’s one man’s tale of using the 311 system to get a pedestrian crossing sign sign at the four way intersection of Lowell Ave., Highland St., and Hull St.

The gist of the story is that initially the 311 system read more…

Needham finds clever way to avoid being ‘held hostage’ by developers

2015 January 28
by Greg Reibman

While the City of Newton is expected to appeal a state ruling disputing claims of having reached the 40B threshold, the Town of Needham has found a different way to keep developers from using the affordable housing law to build projects at unsuitable locations, the Needham Times reports.

 The project would add 400 units to the town’s affordable housing stock, increasing it to include more than 11 percent of all housing in town. This would satisfy the 10-percent state requirement and exempt Needham from the state’s 40B law, which allows developers who plan to include a percentage of affordable units in their multi-family housing plans to bypass local zoning bylaws.

… “We’re supporting this,” [Selectman Chair John] Bulian said about the 40B proposal. “We think this is a good project for the business center.”



School’s out but Skating is Open at the Hyde

2015 January 28
by Groot Gregory

IMG_1311John Rice reports that the rink is snow free and ready for skating. Several neighborhood kids were out working with John last night to clear the snow and prepare the rink for today’s snow day.

The skating rink is in the Hyde playground in Lincoln Street in Newton Highlands.

Austin Street in 3-D (without those weird glasses)

2015 January 28
by Julia Malakie


On the recent parking thread, there was some confusion over the effective footprint of the building, and Marti expressed a wish for 3-D. Here are a couple of recent attempts to capture the 3-D impact of the proposed Austin Street project in context. The renderings were done in SketchUp. I didn’t do them myself, they were a present from mystery elves so I can’t personally attest to the accuracy, but it looks like a reasonable representation. If anyone else wants to try their own version, have at it.

From the angle above you can see Shaw’s on the other side of Austin Street, although not the portion over the Pike as far as I can tell. From this other angle, below, you can just see the far left edge of Shaw’s because it’s mostly hidden behind the new construction.


Here’s another attempt to visualize the building, in Andre Khachuturian’s report on the last meeting at the Senior Center for NewTV, although they didn’t have quite the right perspective of the building to work with, since the front of the building should be parallel to Austin Street, a little bit closer to the street than Rockland Trust (not angling away), judging by the illustration in the last Austin Street post.


And here’s the view from page 47 of the Austin Street Partners document that Adam linked to.

ASP birdseyeview

For anyone who’s saying, well, this height is okay because the Masonic building and the church are already that high, I would note that just because one tall thing is nice, doesn’t mean lots of tall things are nice. And there is a tendency for each incremental big build to be used to justify the next. We’re seeing that with the luxury townhouse-ification in my part of West Newton that I wrote about previously, and the teardowns in Oak Hill Park and elsewhere. What starts out as an anomaly becomes the new normal. Would you like a five-story building on the Rockland Trust lot and the Shaw’s lot as well? Because if one developer does it, the next developer will argue they should be able to as well.

Addendum: Here are a couple of additional views, which include top floor indentations, the abutting church on Highland Ave, and the 16-unit building at 25-31 Highland Ave (far left foreground below), although I think they overstate the bulk of 25-31 Highland, which, looking at the Assessor’s Database photo, is a 3-story building but the third floor has a sloped roof with gables and turrets.


Here’s a view looking east:





How are the streets and sidewalks in your village?

2015 January 26
by Greg Reibman

Report in here.


Newton Nomadic Theater is back

2015 January 27
by Jerry Reilly

TurnOfTheScrewThe new Newton Nomadic Theater is back with it’s second theatrical production.  “The Turn of the Screw” by Jeffrey Hatcher is an eerie ghost story based on the Henry James story of the same name.  The play stars Marge Dunn, one of Boston’s best young actresses, in the role of “the governess”.

Those of you who saw Faith Healer”, the theater’s first production, will remember the character of “Teddy the manager” played by Billy Meleady.  Billy will be back read more…

RIP Sidewalk Sam

2015 January 27
by Greg Reibman

Bob Guillemin, better known as Sidewalk Sam, died in his sleep in his Newton Corner home Monday morning, The Globe reports

Curious trash policy (change?)

2015 January 26
by Jerry Reilly

I just noticed thiTrashCanss on the city’s web site:

Trash and recycling collections will be suspended on Tuesday, January 27th. For residents whose collection day is Tuesday, your next collection day will be Tuesday, February 3rd.”

I thought when trash wasn’t picked up due to snow they just handled it like a holiday – i.e. trash pick-up gets delayed for a day all week.  This policy is more like “let’s pretend it never happened”.  Good thing its winter time, for people like me with a Tuesday pick-up, otherwise that trash would start stinking.

This Newton Patch story from last year would seem to indicate that this is a new policy.

Report: State rejects Newton’s 40B exemption claim

2015 January 26
by Greg Reibman

WickedLocal has the news.

And here’s a statement from the developer and the ruling.