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Future Newton village?

Could the abandoned rail yard by the Allston/Brighton toll plaza become the next Newton village?

Dan Connor, special assistant to City Planner James Friese, announced this week that the City of Newton is preparing a bid to buy and annex Beacon Park Yard, the former CSX rail yard, which closed in 2013 and is the subject of much speculation about its future development. Beacon Park Yard, according to Connor,”could easily solve any one of a number of the challenges that Newton faces as a nearly fully built-out city.”

Connor noted that the Beacon Park Yard could cure Newton’s lack of prime, highway-adjacent lots for large-scale commercial development, a shortcoming that led TripAdvisor to move to Needham last year. “There’s plenty of room to build office space for growing technology companies like TripAdvisor and add to our commercial tax base.” Similarly, Beacon Park Yard could be the site of high-density residential development. According to Connor, “Nearly everyone recognizes that Newton needs to add significant residential density, but nobody wants it in their neighborhood. No area council is going to object to 10-story apartment buildings in Beacon Park Yard, and it would be very attractive to folks wanting to live near downtown.”

Connor also raised the intriguing possibility of building new schools at Beacon Park Yard. “More and more parents drive their kids to school anyway. A new or replacement elementary or middle school right off the Pike would be incredibly convenient for parents who work in Boston.” Beacon Park Yard also has great potential to add to Newton’s open space, athletic fields, or both. “We can imagine a lovely park for Newton’s residents to enjoy.”

Finally, Connor promised that, whatever Newton does at Beacon Park Yard, it would add to the city’s inventory of bike accommodations. “Bike advocates are always bugging the city for more bike lanes. Whatever else we do, commercial, residential, open space, a mix, we’ll cover the whole damn yard in bike lanes.”

Connor acknowledged that the plan faces daunting financial, political, and legal challenges, but said, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow our great city. We’re going to give it the ol’ college try.” Speaking of colleges, Connor also acknowledged that Newton would face a stiff challenge from Harvard, which has long had its eye on expansion at Beacon Park Yard.

“Newton is known as being a little snooty, but we’re not nearly as snooty as Harvard. We think Boston will recognize that we’d make a better partner,” asserted Connor.