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In a column this week, Newton TAB editor Andy Levin tries to make sense of opposition to the proposed Washington Place project at the site of the decaying Orr Building in Newtonville.

I pass the Orr block frequently during my travels around the city. Each time, I stare at the buildings in an attempt to understand why some folks are so against their being replaced. I do understand the anxiety about the displacement of several popular businesses and existing renters, but the buildings themselves are a century old, very worn down and of marginal historical significance, in my opinion. I can’t think of any good reason they shouldn’t be replaced and the area renewed.

and Levin reminds us of what’s at stake if the project is forced to downsize…

The developer, Robert Korff’s Mark Investment, is proposing a 171-unit, five-story apartment building with approximately 40,000 square feet of first-floor retail space, plus a public plaza and community room. Under the city’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, at least 15 percent of the units would be affordable to low- and moderate-income individuals and families. Additional units would be income-restricted to “middle-income” renters — individuals earning approximately $51,000 to $82,000 and families of up to four members with a total income between $73,000 and $117,700…

… So, what is to be gained by limiting “Washington Place” to four stories instead of five? Is a slightly lower skyline worth the reduction in apartments and the opportunities those would create for renters of mixed incomes — and for local businesses? I don’t think so.

orr building

washington place

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